The Character of Hope: Look Up, Then Around


Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

  • Reformation…we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible
  • Revival…we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed
  • Constructive Revolution…we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

“In the blockbuster Annie, the orphan girl of red hair curlers has an unwavering optimism, “The sun will rise tomorrow.” Despite living in poverty and neglect Annie refuses to see her orphan status as permanent. She has not learned to be a victim, helpless and vulnerable, and her character represents just the opposite: hope. ” (Dr. Don Colbert, Deadly Emotions: Understand the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection That Can Heal or Destroy You)

Even though the backstory for “Annie” could be known in greater detail, the little orphan Annie had a real past, real parents, real siblings, and real experiences that somehow shaped her character:

“Mary Alice Smith was born near Liberty, Union County Indiana 25 September 1850. She lived on a small farm with her parents until (as one story goes) both parents died when she was about nine years old some stories say that Mary’s mother died with she was very young and her father, Peter Smith, died when she was ten. Other evidence points to her father being incarcerated at the time. What ever the cause she was considered an orphan. Mary’s uncle, a John Rittenhouse, came to Union County and took the young orphan to his home in Greenfield where he “dressed her in black” and “bound her out to earn her board and keep”. Mary Alice was taken in by Captain Reuben Riley as a “bound” servant to help his wife Elizabeth Riley with the housework and her four children; John, James, Elva May and Alex. As was customary at that time, she worked alongside the family to earn her board. In the evening hours, she often told stories to the younger children, including Riley. The family called her a “Guest” not a servant and treated her like she was part of their family.” (Wikipedia)

By hook, crook, and God’s sovereignty, the portrayal of Annie’s screenplay character as eternally optimistic and hopeful could certainly be counterintuitive, right? The real-life Annie might well have slipped down that well known slippery slope of victimhood, bitterness, cynicism, and eventually despair. There’s a very good likelihood that Annie’s adoptive parents and family had a positive, character-building impact on her. The household was marked by “encouraging children to obey their parents and teachers, help their loved ones, and care for the poor and disadvantaged.”

Maybe that’s where Annie’s betterment, not embitterment, came from. Maybe that’s what gave Annie an almost annoyingly glad, sing-song-sunny, and hope-filled disposition. Maybe, just maybe, Annie’s early life was rescued by God’s Common and even Special Grace. Maybe, somewhere along the line, Annie’s character and regular habits that inculcated hope was to “Look Up, Then Around”: As Dr. Colbert states above, “Despite living in poverty and neglect Annie refuses to see her orphan status as permanent.” This truth and character trait is a hinge-point between healthy and deadly emotions—and all of the resultant flow of life. Annie, in some way, shape or form, got into the habit of “looking up, before she looked around.”

You see, it doesn’t take all that long in life to discern whether or not someone in our midst—even those who have apparently lovely backgrounds and outwardly healthy situations—feel like an orphan. It’s a matter of the heart—hidden from most in our surface-satisfied society.

Orphaned or Adopted? Any Hope of Indefatigable Hope Lies in Our Answer

Of the handful of “Planks of the Reformed Faith”, the theology, gospel, grace, and granular details of Adoption is well beyond what we can serve up at The Training Table as you drop by and continue to run the good race… But, it’s a feast; so let me offer how I attempted to capture a wee bit of it in the Appendix my book, “The Weeping, the Window, the Way”:

Adoption—“But as many as received him, to them gave he the authority to become children of God, to those who believe in his name” (John 1:12). We become children of God because he bestows that right upon us. He gives this right to all who believe on Jesus’ name. God adopts believers in Christ, and we become his own children. This adoption is the embrace of God made possible by justification. In this joyous movement of God, he receives those he has justified as his own children, puts his name upon them, gives his Spirit to them, and binds them to himself forever for his care and protection.” (See: Matthew 6:9; Romans 8:15-16; 1 Corinthians 2: 9-10, and Galatians 4:6)

You might want to read that again… Does it resonate as real in your real, deep down, spiritual and emotional life? If so, rejoice and pass along your joy. If not, pray to God that it would—and please talk to someone about it.

Until any human being, anywhere on the planet, at any time in history past, present, or future, is born again by regeneration (Ezekiel 36:36),  realization (Romans 6:23), repentance (1 John 1:9), and faith (Ephesians 2:8), we are practical and existential orphans with no hope except a thin and fragile hope manufactured on an assembly line of avoidance—designed to cover-over and suppress our orphan-shame, unworthiness, abandonment, self-doubts, and destructive emotional ambivalence’s [E.g., Deadly Emotions].

Got Orthodoxy? Get Orthopraxy! Things Will Begin Looking Up.

If, under the definition and details of biblical orthodoxy, we have been born again, then we will have the blessing and orthopraxy, or habit, of “looking up, before looking around”: Every day, and in every way you can, FIRST look up, go to the Triune God who loves you so much that he gave his one and only Son and Spirit to have you in his family and be indwelt by his Son—via the Spirit’s regeneration and residence in your heart; THEN… not before then, look around, at any given happy and/or crappy circumstance of life lived in a redeemed yet still radically broken world… and have hope:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2-5)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will never, ever leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18… and following)

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)

Be Warned: Looking Down Before, or Never, Looking Up

Net, net: God’s way, Word, and working-it-out [in real life] is replete with warnings about placing our hope in the wrong place by only relying on this world, and only life circumstances, for our worldview and hope: Ecclesiastes 1; 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:2; Colossians 2:3; James 4:4; John 15: 19, 2 Timothy 2:22… and a whole lot more. Why exactly is this so? We are Image Bearers of a Creator God Who is spirit and “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

Amen. And Amen.

Application Questions:

Reformation: Which of the above passages from bible-doctrine of hope most resonate and speak to your Spirit? Why?

Revival: If you were to commit to one or two changes of heart and habit, in word and in deed, in response to your passage(s) of choice, what would those sorts of changes take into account? Would you be willing to share them with a trusted Christian friend and/or community—for prayer, affirmation, unity, and accountability?

Constructive Revolution: How could each, all of the above help encourage you to be as compassionate, urgent, and “targeted” [who exactly has the Spirit placed on your heart] to share these movements of the Spirit, and increased likeness of Christ in you, with others? In what ways could you be more self-sacrificial in spreading the good news of Adoption, Hope: First Looking Up. Then Around?

Hope to see you faithful marathoners for Christ next week at The Training Table. And keep on running the good and Godly race (Hebrews 12:1)!


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