By Steve Wyatt
On the Phoenix campus of the Mayo Clinic—where I received my new kidney—two private streets divide an otherwise massive parking lot. The streets are fittingly named Hope Drive and Healing Drive.
Sometime after my surgery, I stood at the intersection of Hope and Healing drives and observed something remarkable: Although Hope Drive is in the middle of a parking lot, it has zero parking spaces and no off-ramps . . . not even a deceleration lane.
Why? Because, on Hope Drive, you’ve got to, well, drive! Idling in place is not an option. You can’t park, either. Because this road isn’t called Hope Rest Area—it’s Hope Drive. As I thought about that, I realized this: Wyatt, if you really want Hope to get you to the Healing place you want to be, you’ve got to keep moving in that direction!
When Hope Is What You Want, Hope Is What You Do
In my often-interrupted life, I’ve witnessed this truth many times: Hope isn’t hope—unless you are pursuing it. Because when hope is what you want, hope is what you must do.
Hope isn’t just an emotion you feel, though we all certainly can experience a hopeful feeling that temporarily lifts our spirits. But hopeful feelings are fleeting. They come, but, just as quickly, they go.
But the strong, secure, “anchor-for-the-soul” kind of hope the Bible talks about in Hebrews 6:19 is not an emotion. Rather, it’s something you do.
Just yearning for something better isn’t hope. That’s merely “wishing upon a star.” It’s what you feel when you “hope” you win the lottery or “hope” you get a tax refund this year. You don’t know, and you’re not sure it can even happen, but you’d really like if it did!
But when hope is real, it’s an action you’re taking . . . a behavior you’ve put into motion . . . an attitude that drives you upward even when you’re climbing against insurmountable odds.
During my kidney battle, I stumbled across a Bible verse that I stubbornly held onto, especially during those seemingly never-ending months on dialysis:
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, English Standard Version).
In that verse, I noticed, faith isn’t something you should “have,” as in, “Have faith, brother!” No, faith is “work.” It demands effort.
And love isn’t just a warm, fuzzy feeling. Real love is a “labor.”
Then there’s hope. Hope—if it truly is hope—is “steadfast.” Other translations call this the “endurance” of hope.
Hope hangs in there—regardless. You may lose your job, your home, or your health, but even then, hope, if it’s real, presses on! It keeps holding on.
True hope keeps moving, steadfastly, in pursuit of healing.
This verse serves to unpack your No. 1 action step (and there is no No. 2)! Because reaching your desired destination will demand work, labor, and steadfastness. Those aren’t “lean back in your recliner” words; those words come with sweat!
You will receive enormous value when you invest that kind of effort. But check out what all this exertion leads to:
Work leads to faith.
Labor leads to love.
And steadfastness leads to hope.
Another Bible passage says this trio will outlast all other things (1 Corinthians 13:13). Because nothing is greater than faith, hope, and love.
Getting to those delightful destinations requires sweat. Remember, faith is work, love is a labor, and hope demands your endurance. But these ultimate qualities will not come to you. You must drive after them!
When Hope Is What You Want, Hope Is What You Continue to Pursue
During the last four years, as I fought for life, my fiercest battle was to remain in a place of active hope. Everywhere I looked, my story seemed grim and my future felt uncertain. As dialysis systematically drained the strength from my body, every day was a new battle to not give up!
Given my past, you would think I would have already understood and been living in hope. After all, my late wife, Cindy, got cancer and stopped by heaven to see Jesus. I spent my early years building a strong ministry but then had to walk away. And I planted a church—something I never wanted to do—but I did it at the ancient age of 50. (Most planters are in their late 20s or early 30s.)
But that’s the thing about hope. Although hope is a learned trait, it’s never fully learned. You don’t just complete the syllabus, ace the final, get the diploma, and graduate. No, you are a lifelong student in the university of hope.
As I sat in that dialysis center, the single-most depressing room I’ve ever experienced, I would watch my fellow pilgrims, most of whom had lost all hope long ago. They would slump into their chairs and then, three to four hours later, they would slouch their way back home. Everybody there said they wanted hope, but the drive to actually pursue hope was long gone. And I could empathize with them because I battled those same feelings.
But hope is what you do, right? So, instead of waiting for healing to come to me, I pursued my healing! I pressed and I pushed and I prayed. I made calls. I did research. I took ownership over my own care. I just never let up!
Ultimately, God brought me to where I now am. He found a kidney for me by choosing a woman who had a fearless generosity and brought us together in a way only God could do.
But what I could do, I had to do.
So, I did. I pursued hope.
For too long I had it wrong. I thought hope was something I needed to feel, and feel it deeply enough that my hopeful feelings would carry me through whatever I was going through.
But that’s not how hope works.
During my first two decades of ministry, most everything I touched turned to gold. But God wanted me on a deeper path. He wanted me to take those same principles I had taught with excellence and apply them to my own life. So, God directed me to a road less traveled—a path marked by all kinds of chuckholes, roadblocks, and dead ends.
But that’s just one event. All told, I’ve done a total reboot of my life three times. And now, with my brand-new kidney, it’s Restart No. 4. But I’m learning that when my life is in tatters and everything I value has been scattered, that’s when real hope shows up, suits up, and gets back in the game.
If it’s too late for your current predicament, just wait till next time. Because there will be a next time when you need to remain steadfast.
And isn’t that, in the end, the essence of hope?
The most important thing I learned is that hope can begin only after I release my grip on what I think is my preferred future! And I must, instead, take measured steps—painstaking but resolute steps—in the direction of God’s far better future.
Hope is hard work and is typically learned in the heat of battle, where you are guaranteed to leave that conflict with scars.
Now, if you want to learn hope, you also want to avoid some of the lesser and unnecessary battles, so you need to find someone who has also been knocked around by life but is passionate about doing life . . . anyway. Watch them as they limp and then ask why (or how) they keep doing whatever they’re doing. If they are truly a veteran of hope, at first pass they will claim to know nothing about the topic.
But don’t listen to what they say; watch what they do. Take note of the tear stains on their cheek, but also the white knuckles, swollen from constant use. Because those are “wounds” of someone who will not stop holding onto hope—even when there seems to be no hope.
And then do your own hope by moving in the direction of healing. You’ll probably stink at it at first. Because mastering hope takes practice, and you will never fully arrive. But keep repeating the effort and moving in the direction of the healing you say you desire, and like a muscle, hope must grow! Talk about resistance training: Hope thrives in the heart of the one who stubbornly refuses to give up.
Without hope, none of us can survive. When all hope is gone . . . we are goners. So, whatever is pressing in against you, press on anyway. And don’t ever shift your life into park. Instead, keep traveling down Hope Drive and, in God’s perfect time, you will come to a glorious destination where you have always wanted to be. It’s a place called Healed.
And if you happen to see a 60-something man standing there, sporting an extra kidney and a wide smile, please say hi. Because I’d love to welcome you to your healing place. And here’s what you will find there: Healed is a mighty fine place to park.
Steve Wyatt serves as founding pastor of The Crossroads Church in North Phoenix, Arizona.