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Category: Faith

The Essence of Hope

December 19, 2023

For a really long time I struggled to clearly differentiate between faith and hope. They are so similar! Both are abstractions of the same essential longing. Both are based on desire or need; both carry a whispered wish. In our daily language, hope is thrown around like crossed fingers or a flipped coin, like luck or wishing on a star. “I hope my favorite team wins.” “I hope the weather is nice today.” “I hope you catch a big fish on your tip to the river.” 

But I’ve learned that the essence of hope is much deeper. Buddhism speaks of hope as being centered more on the conviction to reach our potential, that nothing is permanent or fixed but can develop and evolve into the betterment of souls. The Muslim faith stands on the teaching that Allah is as His servants expect (or think): if they think goodness, He gives them goodness. They rest in the truth that He will follow through according to their hope in Him. It is one of pillars of the triad in Christianity: faith, hope and charity. I believe that hope — in its truest form — is a core principle for all humankind.

Photo Credit: M. T. Elgassier via Unsplash

My favorite illustration of hope is found in a poem by Larry Hiller, where he personifies Faith and Hope as sisters. 

Walking With Two Sisters, by Larry Hiller

Faith walks before me,

Holding up her lamp

As I try not to stumble in the ink-dark hours before the dawn.

Her light illuminates

One step and then another.

Beside me, Hope, arm linked with mine, encourages and steadies.

Sometimes in the tedium,

Distracted by the pain,

My mind begins to wander, then my feet. I hesitate.

Unsure, I look to Hope.

Her hand takes mine.

The touch reminds me of another hand held out to me,

One pierced and scarred

Yet oh so tender

Lifting me and blessing me when I had fallen and despaired.


I move ahead

Buoyed up by Hope, who sees the end with perfect clarity.

So from our brothers and sisters of varying beliefs, from this beautiful illustration through poetry, and from my own research and study, I feel it’s safe to say that faith and hope are very different. To me, Faith has momentum. She is the driver, the champion carrying the torch on the front lines, trusting her Higher Power and confident in the outcome regardless of the unknown.

And then Hope. Hope is the anchor. She has seen the score of every game- win or lose, the biggest and smallest catch at the river, and each tear that fell in your darkest hour as well as the ones that fell on your brightest day. She is like faith in her strength, but she has the experience of centuries. She can tell you all the ways it has worked out okay even when the weather wasn’t perfect, and not only will she tell you it will all be okay, she’ll take your hand and, through the dark, accompany you the whole way there. Because that is the essence of Hope.

Photo credit: John Towner via Unsplash

Lead photo credit: Ronak Valobobha via Unsplash