Merriam-Webster defines hope as “to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.” Their further definitions clarify hope by saying it is “to cherish a desire with anticipation,” “to desire with expectation of obtainment,” and “to expect with confidence.” Each of these definitions, and rightfully so, points toward the future describing hope as looking to the horizon of time with varying degrees of expectation. But I find it interesting that none of the definitions address the issue as to why one would have such strong expectations.
Take for instance three examples of hope: 1) the hope of winning the Powerball Jackpot, 2) the hope of the Cavaliers repeating as NBA Champions, and 3) the hope of the sun rising tomorrow morning. In each of these examples hope looks to the future, but each with vastly different realistic expectations. Winning the Powerball, though possible, is highly unlikely as history and statistics tell us that only one out of millions will ever see such money. The Cavaliers repeating as champions, given their record and recent propensities on the court, though much more possible than winning the Powerball, is a bit more tenuous of a hope, though not statistically impossible, or improbable. In contrast to these two, the hope for a rising sun is strong, as history and science provide an adequate foundation upon which this hope may rest. The roots of hope for winning the Powerball are quite shallow, and while the roots of hope for the Cavaliers repeat championship are a bit deeper, it is the roots of hope in the rising sun that run the deepest of these three.
A few weeks ago a storm with high winds ripped through my neighborhood knocking many branches to the ground. The winds were strong enough to even bend massive oak trees ways I didn’t think were possible, but none of them broke and none of them were uprooted. However, the next day as I was driving down the road I saw a large pine tree uprooted and laying flat along the ground exposing its full root system for all to see: its roots were wide and shallow. I know enough about trees to know many have what is called a “taproot” which is a single large root running deep into the soil straight down from the tree providing extra strength and stability. Such taproots are often part of the nature of the tree and sometimes the result of the sort of soil in which the tree grows, but regardless of causation, the tree on the side of the road did not have a taproot. Instead, its roots grew shallow and spread wide with very few, if any at all, growing straight down into the soil. And although this was a large and old tree, due to its shallow roots the recent high winds blew through its branches causing the tree to fall.
The introduction to Psalm 63 says it was written by David while he was in the Desert of Judah, a dry and parched land where there is no water. While David’s immediate need may have been water, this psalm tells us he was really looking for God in the midst of a dry time in his life. David begins this psalm acknowledging the present time in which he lives, but he immediately reminisces about those times in his life when he found himself in the presence of God satisfied with God’s goodness and love. He even recalls, while on his bed in the dark night and in the time when sleep is elusive, how God has been his help in times past and has upheld him in times of trouble. Finally, he concludes the psalm mentioning his hope for the future.
For those who love statistics, we find that David spends one verse of this psalm talking about the longings of his soul in the dry time of his life (9% of the psalm), three verses talking about his future hope (27% of the psalm), but he spends seven verses remembering the love, power, and glory of God that David knew in the past (58% of the psalm). Clearly, the roots of David’s hope run deep into the past, making it difficult for him to fall during the current dry and stormy times of life.
In contrast, I find it likely that I spend at least 60% of my time thinking about my current troubled state and the remainder of my time looking to the future. And as I read this psalm I realize I’m missing the necessary look to God’s work in the past as David tells us that is where our hope is rooted: to hope is to remember. We must remember what God has done for his chosen people; we must remember how God included us into the arms of his salvation; we must remember Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection; and we must remember the details of God’s work in our lives. We must vigilantly guard against becoming forgetful Christians and let the roots of our memory run deep, for it is only with deep roots that our hope will ever stand strong.