The Stubborn Promise of Hope

Meditations in Motion

I went to the track for a speed workout last weekend. I am adding one speed workout a week to my routine with the hope of improving my race pace.

The possibility of a new PR (personal record) is behind me, but I believe I can recover a little bit of the speed I lost due to the hamstring injury that plagued me for the better part of two years.

The plan was to do a reverse ladder of sorts. For those of you unfamiliar with running lingo, a reverse ladder is when you run intervals of decreasing distances at increasing speeds with short rest periods between each interval.

I began with a fast 1600 meter interval (four laps around the track, or approximately one mile), followed by 1200, 800, 400, and 200 meter intervals, with a 400 meter jog between each.

It had rained the day before and more heavy rain was in the forecast but I hoped to finish my workout before it began pouring.

Hope is so stubborn.

Meditations in Motion
Photo credit Pixabay

As I ran, I thought about hope. I’m all for it, with an important caveat. Let me explain with a baseball story.

In about six weeks, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training in Florida or a similar warm clime for the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season and I will once again begin to invest a portion of my store of hope in the Philadelphia Phillies.

This is a mostly futile proposition; in the past decade, the Phillies have had a winning season exactly once.

The problem with this hope arises when I start believing that just because I want them to win, they should win, that I am somehow entitled to watch a winning team. When I reach the point in the season when I become frustrated and exhausted by their losing ways, I know it is time for a reset. I am not promised to follow a winning team.

The Prosperity Gospel or the more recently named Positivity Gospel is taxing in the same way.

Meditations in MotionProponents of these gospels, which seem to promote the concept that God is in the business of dispensing “favors” or swooping in to intervene when life’s catastrophes strike, if only we have enough faith, pop up often on social media.

If I am to believe my social media feed, I would think that belief in God results in faster marathon times, fabulous vacations to exotic locations, luxury cars, and adorable, well-adjusted children. In other words, a totally uh-mazing life.

These gospels preach that belief will make us feel good, always. That Jesus is the immediate remedy for depression and sorrow. If we are, somehow, downhearted, the reason must be a flaw in our faith or questionable moral character. The pressure to be exuberant at all times is relentless.

The dilemma is that there is no such message in the real gospel. You know, from the Bible. In fact, many passages in the Bible suggest just the opposite.

We are told “In the world you will have tribulation. John 16:33 andIndeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” 2 Timothy 3:12.

This may seem like a depressing message, but it’s not. In fact, just the opposite.

When you get laid off from your job, or your husband of 30 years tells you that he “needs some space“, or your perfect child winds up with a DUI, or your father develops Alzheimer’s, where does the Positivity Gospel leave you? It leaves you feeling as though your faith must be suspect.

But the real gospel tells you that Love is with you always, that you are not alone, even in your darkest moments, the real gospel tells you to have hope.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5: 3-4

Yes, suffering produces hope. The journey of faith is not one that avoids the dark places of despair, frustration, even anguish. These black, hopeless places are where we find God closest, even if we can’t imagine it at the time.

Admitting that we are not constantly euphoric, content, or even okay is actually an affirmation of our faith, rather than a character flaw. Our religion is supposed to make us feel better during bad times, not worse. We are not promised ceaseless bliss.

As I crossed the finish line and walked off the track, I checked my watch. Pleased with my interval times, I started the short jog back to the rec center and a warm shower. It had started to rain and I was getting soaked.

Even though I hoped to complete my workout before the rain began in earnest, I didn’t quite make it in time. Maybe, I thought, running in a 40-degree pelting rain would count as suffering, which would result in perseverance, character, and eventually, more hope.

If I acquire more hope from this suffering to add to my stash, I know just where to spend it. The Phillies recently signed a hot-shot third baseman and the upcoming season looks bright. Just thinking of the words “Play ball,” leaves me smiling. Hope springs eternal.

 

You can find the places I link up here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

95 comments

  1. Wholeheartedly agree with you! I am not familiar with the Prosperity / Positivity Gospel but it sounds all wrong. We will experience hard times and our faith is designed to help us through that. One of my mantras is “embrace adversity”. I like to think that stoically enduring tough times makes us stronger.
    Hope the Phillies win!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Once again, you have managed to take grain of a thought and grow it into a post both personal and profound. When I read statements on social media with words like “I am blessed” or “God has answered my prayers” (for things like a dream vacation or a positive outcome on a test) it makes me wonder about the person’s belief system. I’m not comparing mine to theirs (I am a non-believer) but the whole concept of a God sitting around deciding who deserves his blessings or who gets what goodie just seems odd. Good luck to your Phillies, by the way. I have no hope for our home team ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Janis. I wonder the same things. while I am happy for the good fortune of friends and family, I also wonder what they believe when misfortune occurrs. My Phillies need all the luck they can get! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am glad to read that you feel stronger again with your running. Good luck with your speed work. Your ladder workout sounds tough. I hope my hamstring and hips feel better enough to eventually add in some speed work again at some point.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Amen, Laurie! We have hope precisely because we know God is with us during the rough times. I detest those who preach the false gospel of health and wealth – false prophets, every one.
    And I loved your analogy about the Phillies. That’s how we feel about the Falcons here in Georgia!
    Blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hear, hear. We’ve strayed into a kind of tyranny of positive thinking, and it’s a bankrupt belief system that promises nothing but prosperity and bliss 24/7/365, if you just have enough of the right kind of faith. I sure don’t seek nor glorify suffering, but it’s been my experience that the darkest and most challenging moments were when I felt most connected to the support of something far larger than my wee human imagination can contain. And, hey, maybe this is the Phillies’ year; who knows? I lived for a couple of years in Chicago about two blocks from Wrigley Field, and there ain’t nothing as stubborn as the hope of Cubbies fans ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, we seem to have moved from hope to entitlement. It’s a self-defeating philosophy in my humble opinion. At this time of year, I have hope; by June it will have morphed into resignation! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. I need to add a speed workout in–like you, I”m hoping to recover some lost speed without chasing PRs. Those days are behind me. But I still think I’ve got some speed in me…Let’s keep each other accountable!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. As a DC sports fan who finally had something to cheer about in October, I can’t wait to hear, “Play ball!” Of course, a repeat title is hard to pull off, but we’ll still be going into the season a little more hopeful than in most years.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love all your insight and inspiration ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree…it’s the darkest times that actually give us the most strength and perseverance ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kim. I love interacting with running bloggers and feel like you are my “home” blogging community but I am never sure if I am posting appropriate content for the link-ups. I appreciate your comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  9. Great thoughts on the โ€œProsperity Gospelโ€. I donโ€™t understand how people can believe it given Jesusโ€™s humble station โ€œin the world,โ€ but I guess itโ€™s what people ^want^ to believe. That said, itโ€™s really hard to pray โ€œThy will be doneโ€ instead of โ€œhelp me suceedโ€!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you are exactly right – the Prosperity Gospel fits into what people want to believe. I always find myself thinking I know what’s best in every situation. I have to remind myself that I don’t.

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  10. Oh yes, pondering why bad things happen is always interesting. Sometimes there truly seems to be no reason. Like when a child dies from cancer. What could that child have possible done to deserve that? In my case, had my brother not died before I was born, I would not exist.

    Yoga teaches that goals (aka hopes, really) are good. The problem begins when we get so attached to the outcome of those goals. Which is exactly why I still set goals. So many don’t because they fear failure, and of course it happens. That’s where we grow, though.

    Great minds must think alike, because my post on Friday will be about why doing speed work is a good thing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I honestly think there is no “why”. Attachment is so difficult to get rid of. Maybe all attachment isn’t bad, but rather expectation is the problem, or worse yet, entitlement. I am anxious to read your post on speedwork! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Often I do think there is a why, but some things are so senseless. I may not be Christian, but I do believe in God, and that there is a plan — and that we can’t know what that plan is.

        I doubt I’ll be adding anything to what you already know about speed work!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I struggle with the subtle ways in which “positivity” gospel shows up in my own, supposedly, orthodox theology, and I think it’s pretty widespread. All we have to do is listen in on a church’s prayer times. Sad and chilling, and I’m glad you ‘ve addressed it here. We need a wake up call.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. My My My, Good On You!! Honestly Though, I Personally Enjoyed Watching The Nationals Last Season While Knowing That Harper Was Nowhere To Be Found. Harper Burned A Lot Of Bridges Out Here In GJ During The Junior College World Series. But That Was Last Year So All The Best In 2020!! Congrats On Switching Up The Route And For Keeping Hope Alive. Push On & Keep Those Dreams In Check. Will Be Checking In On Ya This Year, As A Friendly Reminder.

    Push The Edge,
    Cheers

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I can imagine Bryce Harper is not missed by Nats fans! He gets booed almost everywhere. I have not formed an opinion about him yet – keeping my options open. Thanks for checking on me! Pushing to the edge is my nature.

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  13. Laurie, this post makes me think of how ‘relative’ it all is…what we want. what we hope for, what we expect, what we think we deserve. I was visiting a teen friend of ours in Children’s this weekend, where she’s in neuro recovery from an attempted suicide last fall. Her mom and I were talking about their ‘new normal’ for this active young gymnast who was living a very different life, until recently. They’ve gone through many stages of grief and have now, I can hear, accepted–accepted this new normal. Even though it’s not what they ever wanted or expected or felt that their family ‘deserved.’ What is now a ‘positive’ for them was incomprehensible a few months ago…but they’re celebrating each new ‘PR–and so are we. Beautiful post. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a touching story, Carolyn. I can’t imagine what the young woman and her family are going through. It certainly is all relative. When I hear a story like this, I am reminded to stop feeling so entitled and realize how grateful I should be for each day.

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  14. This is a great post, Laurie! It’s so important to get the balance – holding onto hope and trusting in what God can do without developing that sense of entitlement and thinking that he should do what we want. The struggles and the hard times are often where he does his deepest work.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow props to you for managing a tough workout like that! I can’t stomach more than an 800 on the track.

    You bring up a point regarding religion that has always bothered me. When people give credit to God for good things it grates on me. A girl I went to high school with underwent IVF and was able to have a healthy baby. All credit went to God, not the miracle that is modern science. If she hadn’t conceived I’m certain God wouldn’t have been blamed though. I’ve never understood why people think God controls outcomes in their life as opposed to guiding them on their journey to their own outcomes. Ok ranting over! Haha

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually look forward more (or dread less) to track workouts versus long runs.

      I agree with you, Tracy. I have a friend who has a baby born with a heart defect. She credits God with the successful surgery that saved her baby’s life, not the skilled surgeons. It doesn’t make sense to me either! In so many ways.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Things can’t always work out perfectly for everyone all the time. There’s no growth there. No character building. We all have to go through ebbs and flows and good times and bad times. It’s just the way it is.

    Great job with your track workouts!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I love the way you tied this in with your running. Admitting imperfections is absolutely an affirmation of faith. Life is multi-dimensional – as tough as that might be sometimes – and growth only comes through discomfort.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Positivity often shows up in different ways and it is hard to be positive all the time, no matter how much you say you will change your ways i.e. resolutions at the beginning of the year, a stroke of good luck that makes you say you will not moan and groan about bad luck again – if we could only all keep the glimmer of hope fresh that would be awesome, because, just one bad thing rears its head and emotions come tumbling down like a house of cards.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Hi Laurie – I see this mindset all the time and the disappointment that goes with it. There are so many people who expect God to be their genie in a bottle and to grant their wishes/prayers. There is so much joy and delight when He does, and so much blame and disappointment when He doesn’t. I truly believe that we’re here to live the highs and lows, God doesn’t rescue us from the lows because that’s often where the most growth occurs, but He does promise to be with us through them – and that’s something I’m always so grateful for.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, a genie in a bottle is a good way to describe it. It’s so sad and leads to disappointment and disillusionment. It can’t be sustained. I agree with everything you wrote.

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  20. Oh my goodness, Laurie. I think this is one of my favorite posts. You nailed it all…the fallacies of the prosperity/positivity gospel and the reality of hope in dark times.

    And this: ” suffering produces hope. The journey of faith is not one that avoids the dark places of despair, frustration, even anguish. These black, hopeless places are where we find God closest, even if we canโ€™t imagine it at the time.”

    I’ve walked it and your words are spot on.

    I hope your race pace improves with the focus you’re putting on it. And, maybe, just. maybe, this will be the year for the Philadelphia Phillies? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, Kate! I am so sorry to read you are losing hope. I love reading your posts – you are such a talented writer. I hope your hope returns as the year progresses!

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  21. PREACH! Laurie. I’m so glad you wrote and posted this. I am right there with you on this prosperity gospel nonsense. It is not what I read in my Bible. It’s not how Jesus lived when He was on this earth, and it’s not what He promised life would be like for His followers.

    I hope you get the speed you’re looking for!

    Thank you for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. When my 18 month old nephew was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor, we were not a terribly ‘formally’ religious family. But we all really upped our prayer game, let me tell you! Prayed and prayed and prayed. My father was a cancer research scientist at St. Jude and he felt especially helpless at being unable to keep his grandson from getting sick and once Andrew was sick, helpless that he couldn’t make him well. Wilm’s Tumor has a 95% cure rate at the time but Andrew was of the 5% who didn’t survive. Because we were all novices to prayer and faith, it was easy to think God was teaching us a lesson, or punishing us or worst of all, somehow punishing Andrew. But our faith has grown, and through our loss of this little angel, I think we have come to understand and believe that God doesn’t pass favors to those who pray a certain way or a certain amount. God is good all the time. It’s just life and cancer that took our baby. But through it all, our family became much stronger and closer to one another and to God.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Really interesting read. In Australia we (I) know little of the baseball and football seasons – our sports are cricket and rugby league/union and AFL. But HOPE…let me tell you a little story. I have cancer and it takes some courage to get me motivated to stay calm and knowing I can manage my emotions through difficult and time consuming treatments. Whilst I am now mostly done with these in 2020 back in 2018 it was full on. I found “Heart” the song about the Baseball Team in Damn Yankees. The words spoke to me. So much.On those trips in my car, I would play this over and over and SING (no-one with me!) and that song is my talisman now.

    Thanks so much for joining in the 2nd Life This Week in 2020 and next week the optional prompt is 3/51 Remember This 20.1.2020. I do hope to see you link up too. Denyse.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Denyse, I was not aware you had cancer. “Heart” is a wonderful song to have stuck in your head for encouragement, whether you are a baseball fan or not. It does take heart to have hope. My mom used to direct plays when she taught high school. Damn Yankees was always my favorite, mostly because of THAT song!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I find the idea that prayer or faith will help a team win an important game, or help someone get a new job, or other similar things annoying. What does that say about the team that never wins or the person who is unemplyed for months? Are they not praying hard enough?

    Liked by 2 people

  25. I had no idea about running havibng so many options! Having problems makes us appreciate the good in our lives: I always value my health just after having an illness. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Liked by 2 people

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