"For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."
I feel like this verse has a number of different applications to the way we address that which we cannot see and touch. Let's say I have a car that is sitting outside my house. It started yesterday. It started the day before that. This car has been reliably starting for the several years I have owned and driven it, and I've got no genuine reason to believe it won't start tomorrow like every other day I've turned it on. Would I say "I hope my car starts tomorrow?" Likely not. Hoping my car starts tomorrow when I know within a 99.999999999% chance that it will start is not hope. This is "hope" that is seen and it is obviously no hope at all.
But don't we do this with our faith some days? Do we not say, "I'll believe it when I can see and touch it"? But if we are not hoping for something crazy, but rather something predictable, then it doesn't require faith to believe in, now does it? It simply requires some deductive reasoning and cleverness, and magically, we're our own gods, because we made what we hoped for come to pass.
Faith and hope really go to together when we hope for something crazy. I would call it a crazy hope when there is no way this could happen without God showing up. How often do we try to do things that we know would fail without God there? Do we ever try REALLY crazy things?
Let me share some of my own personal story here. I have an ascending aortic aneurysm. It's essentially a ballooned out artery immediately next to my heart. It really is as scary as it sounds - it's a very serious condition and I shouldn't be able to do much given this at all. A few years ago, when I was about 22, I was in for a regular check-up and they measured the aneurysm - it measured at 5.9cm (keep in mind, the operative begins back at 5.5, and I was well past it). Needless to say, my doctors, my mother, and myself - we all freaked out. I was a wreck for over a month while waiting to get an appointment with the surgeon again. As I was sitting in the middle of my bible study group, I was a broken person, without hope - I really thought that this could be the end of my life. My bible study group, my church, they prayed over me, broken and hopeless as I was, that I would be healed and the aneurysm would shrink. Aneurysms don't just go away or shrink on their own; I accepted their prayers, but I couldn't bring myself to hope for something impossible.
After a month of literally heart-wrenching waiting, I went to see the surgeon again. The aneurysm that had formerly been well within operable range at 5.9cm was now 4.9cm, outside of a range that required surgical intervention. There was NO WAY this could be possible. The surgeon attributed the "error" to a mis-reading of the previous scan. There was no other answer that made sense to him. There was no other way to explain what had happened without God.
There is much I should not be able to do, especially given the fact that I have this time-bomb in my chest. But now I have learned that I am invincible with my hope and faith in God. After that frightful, scary, and hopeless month of waiting to find out if I'd have surgery, I took up running. In the past six months I have already run over 500 miles, including 2 half marathons. I have climbed up the Manitou incline and run on the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. I have motorcycled from the 'burbs into DC during rush hour traffic. I have realized that I can really do anything when God is with me. Many of the crazy or stupid things I do would be difficult under normal circumstances and should be impossible under mine; and yet I hope to complete them anyway. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31) We know that God can provide us with anything - it's never a question of capability. If you really believe He spoke us into existence, then why don't you believe he can perform the impossible - miracles? And if we have this great God on our side, who seriously thinks they can stand against God and win? Who seriously thinks that there is a task we cannot perform if God wills it?
This is crazy/faith. Without God, these things I do would be crazy. With God, it is simply faith.
This Friday, my aneurysm will be scanned again for my 6-month followup. This is a crucial scan this time around because if the aneurysm has grown, it will produce a clear pattern of growth over the past 18months that will warrant surgery. If this scan displays a smaller or at least stable aneurysm, then I will likely be able to put off surgery for at least another 3 years.
I'm not sure what to pray for, to be perfectly honest. "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18) I'm trying to remind myself that it's really not a big deal in the scheme of things, and could in fact be an opportunity. While it's a risky surgery, I'm now at a point in my life where I'd rather have it over with and enjoy the time off to figure out what I could do with my new life. If it's stable, I'll continue to be monitored regularly and continue to have the prospect of surgery weighing over me. I think I will pray that the aneurysm is gone completely. This isn't "possible" - there is no way this could be true...unless God showed up. I think I will pray that God shows up.