Is Beautiful Hope a Trap?

Ocboter, 10, 2023

"Hope" serves as the driving force behind our efforts, perseverance, and determination, instilling in us the belief that our efforts will yield rewards. But should hope be subject to scrutiny?

ART by Jessie Chen

Is Beautiful Hope a Trap? Let’s read a story about Allison first.  
Allison has always had a deep love for coffee, the aroma, and the different types of coffee beans. She harbors a dream of owning her little coffee shop. After graduating from university, she actively pursued this dream, investing a significant amount of time and effort in researching the market, crafting a business plan, and selecting the perfect location. Her beautiful hope was to create a haven in the form of a small coffee shop, nestled in a quiet alley, where people would gather to enjoy her coffee and the unique ambiance she envisioned.

Before embarking on her entrepreneurial journey, Allison had romanticized the idea of running a coffee shop and turning her passion for coffee into a fulfilling career. She imagined herself in a sunlit café, observing satisfied customers sipping coffee, every corner of the place resembling a tasteful painting. She saw herself as a free-spirited coffee artist, gracefully brewing pour-over coffee, and engaging with white-collar customers about the origin of the coffee beans.

However, as soon as her coffee shop opened, the reality of entrepreneurship revealed another facet of her hope. Initially, business was good, and many customers enjoyed the novelty. Yet, Allison soon found herself facing various challenges, including rising costs, intense competition, and difficulties in finding reliable staff. Her once idyllic hope turned into unpredictable challenges. In addition to the long hours, she had to deal with the never-ending task of cleaning up after closing time. The day-to-day operations of the coffee shop left her with little time for her personal life. Her time was ruthlessly consumed, and her beautiful hope faded away in the harsh reality. She discovered herself burdened with unforeseen debts and economic pressures, turning her dream into a heavy burden.

For us, “hope” isn’t just a feeling; it’s a powerful motivator that propels us to pursue, endure, and persist, especially when hope is accompanied by images of what could be. Allison’s belief that owning her own little coffee shop would allow her to share her love for coffee, enjoy its aroma, and generate income was a motivation for her to invest significant time and resources in preparation. Just as, when we believe that continuing our education can lead to excelling in our professional lives and confidently delivering presentations at work, this belief inspires us to continue studying or reading professional forums, even after a long day. When we know that twenty weeks of dedicated exercise can result in visible muscle definition, we willingly lift weights and stick to a fitness-oriented diet.

Hope isn’t just a feeling; it’s a powerful motivator that propels us to pursue, endure, and persist.

The beauty of hope is enticing, but to strengthen the motivation for action, we may inadvertently idealize the circumstances we aspire to. This is why it’s critical to scrutinize the stability and correctness of our beliefs. Otherwise, too many instances of hope built on uncertain foundations can dilute the motivating power of “hope.” Discovering that the hope we pursue is merely wishful thinking can subtly erode our self-confidence, lead to self-doubt, or foster resentment toward the sources of hope. We need verification to ensure that “hope” is established on a solid footing.

Various methods exist for this verification, one of which is through practice. For example, if we believe in the biblical principle “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” we must demonstrate restraint when we feel the urge to seek retribution and focus on matters worthy of our time. We should also observe and record whether these actions produce the expected results, save us the time and effort of unnecessary conflicts, and lead to more mature and harmonious decision-making.

Practicing is a method of validating hope.

Another verification method is through reflection. We should continuously examine our beliefs and consider the evidence. For example, if the resurrection of Jesus weren’t true, what are the chances that over 500 individuals would maintain a lie for their entire lives? When Jesus was arrested, his disciples either hid or denied their association, but after witnessing the resurrection, they boldly and continuously proclaimed it, even unto death. If the resurrection were false, what are the chances that initially timid individuals would willingly die for it? We can scrutinize and adjust our beliefs through reading, learning, and engaging in dialogue.

Reflection is another method of validating hope.

Many Christians are willing to change themselves or let their life experiences change them for the sake of their faith because the “hope” within the Christian faith has been validated from various angles, ensuring that what is hoped for has a basis. This is what I gleaned from the artist’s work and her reflections. 

Is your hope a real beautiful hope, or a sugar-coated trap?

A message from artist Jessie Chen

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:16

On that day, as the scripture was being read, suddenly the sound of a trumpet echoed, and in that moment, the resurrected people appeared. I like to symbolize the Lord with clouds and lightning; to me, He is that majestic. This day is also the judgment day of Jesus, and I hope to live eternally with Him.