Faith & Values

People are a complex bunch. A quick glance at this day in history confirms it. On Jan. 11, 1569, England’s first state lottery was held in St. Paul’s Cathedral. On the very same date in 1759, nearly 200 years later, the first American life-insurance company was incorporated in Philadelphia.

Lotteries and life insurance. We humans like to take our chances and hope for the best, but we’ve also lived long enough to know it’s wise to prepare for the worst.

Each January, as we break in a new calendar (figuratively speaking, at least), we head off with high hopes for happy possibilities about the next 12 months. Maybe this year we’ll finally have a baby, or get a better job, or enjoy being healthy and fit (or at least, fit-er). At the same time, we brace ourselves to face disappointment and loss, part of the package deal of life on planet Earth.

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Optimism and caution. Risk and prudence. Lotteries and life insurance. One thing is certain — we’ll need both sides of those equations in 2014. That raises a question:

What are you hoping for in 2014? What would feel like a big win? Whatever makes your hope list, here are some thoughts to consider:

Certitude is not the same thing as hope. Some people refuse to allow their hearts to be the least bit expectant unless their object of hope is pretty much a done deal. In Romans 8 (New International Version), Paul writes about the part hope plays in the Christian faith. Verse 24 says: “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

In other words, it’s OK to be filled with anticipation for things that seem way out of sight and out of reach! That fits with other kinds of hopes, too. Writing a book? Finding that special someone? Going back to school? Getting a fresh start in a new location? OK — you have no guarantees. But that’s exactly why you need hope. Uncertainty is where hope does its best work.

Hope requires patience. So many of the things we long for seem utterly impossible, until they happen. The next verse, Romans 8:25 says, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

I remember when strained relationships among some very dear family members brought much sadness on all sides and, to be honest, authentic reconciliation seemed like a pipe dream.

It took years of rebuilding trust, humility, mutual forgiveness, acceptance, much prayer — and yes, excruciatingly extended, unreasonably tenacious hopefulness — for the “impossible” to become reality. But it has. At a recent gathering, there was a sparkle of joy as love passed back and forth among us like a favorite dish where everyone heaps their plates full and reaches for more.

Hope and patience must hold hands in order for hearts to heal and dreams to grow. Don’t give up — what you hope for is worth the wait.

Hope outlasts disappointments. Not everything we hope for happens, it’s true. And that can make hopefulness seem like the biggest risk of all. Still, hope always points us in the right direction, even if we don’t get exactly what we want. Unrealized expectations can be an open door to new possibilities — options we hadn’t previously considered.

So, no, you probably won’t win the lottery (especially if you’re like me and don’t play) and, yes, you probably do need life insurance. But those aren’t the only two options for you in the coming year.

Hope will keep you going, even when past disappointments and failures make you want to quit — which reminds me of another thing that happened on this date in 1935. Amelia Earhart became the first person (not just the first woman) to fly from Hawaii to California where she was greeted at the Oakland airport by thousands who rushed to meet her.

She’d known, when she took off from Oahu, that just a year before, pilot Charles Ulm had perished in the ocean attempting this same aeronautical feat. Yet she chose to not only risk disappointment, but even death, rather than give up the hope of soaring.

Don’t let the failures of 2013 (yours or someone else’s) diminish your hopes for the year ahead. Disappointment comes, but hope will outlast it and open other options. The sky’s the limit!

Hope in God. Faith in Jesus is the absolute foundation for my hope. As I face the uncertainties of a new year, Psalm 33:22 is my prayer: “May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” God is trustworthy, no matter what this or any other day in history brings. And to me, that’s better than winning the lottery.

Jodi Detrick is a minister with the Northwest Ministry Network (Assemblies of God). She is also a public speaker, an author and a life coach. Readers may send feedback to