Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
-Paul (Philippians 4:8-9, MSG)
Last week I watched a surprisingly thought-provoking film called Tomorrowland. It had some major plot holes but still left our family with some worthwhile conversations. One evening, in the midst of discouragement involving the loss of a job and other things, the teenage daughter looks at her dad and tells him a simple story he has told her many times over the years.
There are two wolves and they’re always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. Which one wins?
(long, very dramatic pause) ……
Whichever one you feed.
I know. That sounds a bit like an inspirational Facebook meme. This story is well known and often attributed (with debate) to Native American origin. But I think there’s something deeply true about it that highlights a deficiency in the lives of so many Christ-followers.
"Think positive thoughts” isn’t nearly what I’m getting at. Walking through life and attempting to be cheerful is far different than living with a core conviction that God is up to something beautiful, even in the midst of brokenness. That’s real hope. And hope tells us that we have a role to play in it all, because Jesus has invited us to be imitators of him as we live each day.
So many seem to be having a crisis of hope lately. We look at people and the world and find it easy to become absorbed with all that is wrong with everything, and everyone. And we spend our time thinking about it, talking about it, and complaining about it. We prepare meals for the dark wolf to eat its fill.
And yet I stood in front of my congregation on Sunday asking them to share what gives hope, and our answers were so beautiful...
"Each day is a new opportunity"
“God’s mercy new every morning”
But the temptation (mine too) is to get up the next morning and forget that there is much reason for hope, because we’ve got work to do and life is stressful and our country is a mess.
So I continue to wonder… which wolf is getting fed?
Maybe we need to uncomfortably admit that much of our hopelessness is often linked to the false belief that our national/political realities are the primary reason to have or lack hope. Fear, dread, and despair are often used effectively to manipulate, and do they ever work on us! But disciples of Jesus will see the hollowness of messages lacking hope, and reject them- both in ourselves, and in the world around us.
If we're going to be hopeless, let's be hopeless about hopelessness.
It’s hard for a follower of Jesus to square all that hopelessness up with a love that casts out fear (1 John 4:9), a hope that can never be shaken (Ps 62:5-6), and an allegiance to Jesus who literally self identifies as the "light of the world" (John 8:12).
What if one of our spiritual disciplines was to proclaim hope to people throughout each day? What if we "hoped with people" instead of complained with them? What if we even were courageous enough to mention why Jesus fills us with hope each day?
We can do a better job of recognizing the beautiful.
We can do a better job of catching people doing something right and telling on them.
We can do a better job of remembering which kingdom is worth trusting.
We can do a better job of laughing and breathing deeply.
That will feed the right wolf. So will remembering that God loved the world so much that he sent his son.
We don’t need to ignore despair or darkness when it hits us. We just need to remember that the darker the room, the more clearly a light will be able to be seen.
What’s one way you can feed the better wolf this week as you dwell with Jesus and others?
Jesus, give me hope.