So That You May Know the Hope

So That You May Know the HopeImage: So That You May Know the Hope © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Epistles for Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday: Ephesians 1.15-23

So that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you may know what is the hope to which
he has called you.

– Ephesians 1.18

Hope is a hard word for me these days. Last Friday marked a year since Gary had the surgery that would begin to bear him away from us. I think of those who waited with me with such hope throughout that surgery, throughout the two emergency surgeries that would follow, and throughout all the days we kept vigil with Gary until it became clear our vigil was at an end. What is the use of hoping, when hope comes to such a pass?

For those in grief, it is common to encounter well-meaning people who seek to stir our hope by schooling us in God’s ineffable ways, who want to tell us our loss is part of a larger plan and a bigger mystery that we cannot know from here but that we will understand one day. I have a tremendous tolerance for mystery, a great capacity to abide the unknown. In the wake of my husband’s death, I am clear that when it comes to suffering, in the astounding variety of forms by which we experience it in this world, it is not enough to chalk it up to mystery, to a larger plan. It’s not that I’m not interested in the bigger mystery, or in knowing that I might have a better grasp of it someday in another world. It’s just that someday is not, in itself, sufficient to get me through this day, to move me from one moment to the next in this world where Gary is not.

In the midst of my grief, what I know is that hope, inexplicably, has not left me. That it is stubborn. That it lives in me like a muscle that keeps reaching and stretching, or a lung that keeps working even when I do not will it, persisting in the constant intake and release of breath on which my life depends.

The apostle Paul (or, perhaps, the author who wrote in his name) well knows the deep presence of mystery in our life with God. (For now we see in a mirror, dimly, he writes in 1 Corinthians 13.) But he, too, is uninterested in simply abiding the mystery or locating our hope in a “someday” realm. In this week’s passage from Ephesians, he prays quite specifically for his friends to be illuminated here and now, praying that God will give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation as they come to know God. He prays that the eyes of their hearts will be enlightened. So that you may know, he writes, what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power (18-19).

Paul is talking about a knowing that is tied with resurrection. He is talking about a hope that is bound together with the life of the risen Christ. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead, Paul writes in verse 20. Paul makes clear that Christ, in turn, is putting his power to work in us, and not just for someday, but also for now: that this hope is active in our lives as we press into the mystery that attends us. Even as Paul writes about the risen Christ being seated in the heavenly places, he also bears witness to a Christ who wore our flesh and abides with us still, hoping for us when our hope is shattered, breathing new life into us, encompassing us in the arms of a community that holds us with hope.

Hope is not always comforting or comfortable. Hope asks us to open ourselves to what we do not know, to pray for illumination in this life, to imagine what is beyond our imagining, to bear what seems unbearable. It calls us to keep breathing when beloved lives have left us, to turn toward one another when we might prefer to turn away. Hope draws our eyes and hearts toward a more whole future but propels us also into the present, where Christ waits for us to work with him toward a more whole world now.

What are you hoping for these days? Who helps you hope when it is hard to hope? How does your hope call you to see what is here and now?

Blessing of Hope

So may we know
the hope
that is not just
for someday
but for this day—
here, now,
in this moment
that opens to us:

hope not made
of wishes
but of substance,

hope made of sinew
and muscle
and bone,

hope that has breath
and a beating heart,

hope that will not
keep quiet
and be polite,

hope that knows
how to holler
when it is called for,

hope that knows
how to sing
when there seems
little cause,

hope that raises us
from the dead—

not someday
but this day,
every day,
again and
again and

—Jan Richardson

For previous reflections for Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday, visit Christ Among the Scraps and You Who Bless.

An Advent Journey…

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Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “So That You May Know the Hope,” please visit this page at (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

24 Responses to “So That You May Know the Hope”

  1. Marcia Says:

    Hope for this moment – yes.

  2. Jim McWhinnie Says:

    May the Lord embrace you, Jan, with heavenly love both divine and human.


  3. mary muir Says:

    thank you I can relate since it is a year since my dear soulmate and husband passed away and yesterday would have been our anniversary keeping you in prayer and requesting the same God Bless

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Mary, thank you so much for your words and your prayers; they are a great gift. I am so sorry about your husband. Know I am praying for you in this anniversary week and beyond, and sending blessings for all the days to come. Deep peace to you.

  4. Kathleen Says:

    Footprints in the Sand
    When I read your post, Jan, I thought of the Footprints prayer. There are so many words that we don’t want to hear from people when we are experiencing intense grief. I believe my faith carried me some twenty plus years ago when I lost my husband, also at a too young age. I believe hope sustained me through those dark days. Today my life is much different and blessed in many ways, but I certainly could not even think that it would be early on.

    Footprints in the Sand, a beautiful poem!

    One night I dreamed a dream.
    As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
    Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
    For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
    One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

    After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
    I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
    I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
    especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
    there was only one set of footprints.

    This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
    “Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
    You’d walk with me all the way.
    But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
    there was only one set of footprints.
    I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

    He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
    Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
    When you saw only one set of footprints,
    It was then that I carried you.”

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Kathleen, thank you for your thoughtfulness and your words about your own loss. I wish you many blessings as you remember your husband and continue to notice the gifts that your life holds. Thank you again!

  5. sheila j Says:

    It is almost a year since I, too, lost my beloved husband. I have since had my left hip replaced (which became infected) and now I am waiting for my right hip replacement. Today, I sit inside and watch the snow slowly drifting down and covering what was a grey and dreary late fall landscape.

    And, as we head for the longest night of year, I do feel some hope – I know that the light will come again and I can feel the stirrings of hope in my once frozen heart.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Sheila, I am grateful for your beautiful words. I am so sorry about your beloved husband, and I am praying for you as you navigate not only your grief but also your hip replacements. I rejoice that you’re able to notice the presence of beauty and hope. May this season bring healing and comfort in abundance. Peace to you.

    • mary muir Says:

      God Bless Sheila Each of us having lost our husbands this past year now we are walking the path of widowhood with one another in our hearts May the light of hope bring us healing

  6. Don Saliers Says:

    Hope always seems to keep company with vulnerability. Maybe that is one way we distinguish cheerful optimism from hope that will endure contradictions. Losses accumulate (daughter and spouse & friends), intensifying my desire that this fragile life I have be of some good in the world. Hope does not need false comfort or innocence…the hope of which Paul (and you, dear fellow journeywoman) speak moves into reality not away from it. Each morning I sing with Taize, “Bless the Lord, my soul, who leads me into life.”

    • mary muir Says:

      what a beautiful way to start each day – that is a powerful spiritual practice, Don.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Ah, Don…thank you. Each sentence you’ve offered here is an invitation to contemplation. I so appreciate the way you illuminate the strange tension that true hope holds – how it asks us to acknowledge both our fragility and strength, and calls us toward courage in our vulnerability. And enduring the contradictions…oh, my goodness. Yes.

      Thank you, as always, for the gift of your words. I am carrying these with me and sending blessings as you continue, in the midst of losses, to be led into life.

  7. Saskia Kidd Says:

    Hope-again and again, for every single day and night- yes.
    Bless you and thank you.

  8. Tanda Ainsworth Says:

    Dear Jan, I continue holding you and Gary in prayer and walk the labyrinth for you in hope. God’s blessings, Dear One.

  9. Barb Roberts Says:

    Dear Jan,

    When I read Blessing of Hope, my immediate thought of Hope was/is, the birth of Christ! Not death, but life…

    I substituted “The love of Christ” for Hope (not just for someday), “The presence of Christ” for Hope (not made of wishes) “The body of Christ” for Hope (made of sinew and muscle – God incarnate), “The voice of Christ” for Hope (that knows how to holler) and “The salvaton of Christ” for Hope (that raises us from the dead). Christ is Hope and Hope is Christ!

    I have shared this post and your website with our Grief Share outreach at our church. Your ministry reaches further than you know.

    Simply breathtaking!

  10. Sue Mannshardt Says:

    Jan…thank you thank you thank you! Hope in the here and now is often elusive; yet whenever we have an experience of Presence, hope is part of that Presence…stubborn hope is an apt phrase…as always, your message, your art, your blessing all touched me deeply.
    PS Please note my change of email address:…for both Painted Prayerbook posts, as well as your upcoming online Advent Retreat for which I’ve signed up. sue

  11. jeanne Everhart Says:

    Jan, Your poetry and thoughts touch me. My husband of 47 years passed away January of last year so I am in empathy with your grieving. As I read your words of hope the old song, “Whispering Hope, oh how welcome thy voice” is playing in my head. Your sharing means a lot to me.

  12. Mary Dell Sigler Says:

    Jan, Today marks one year since my husband of 44 years died. I still feel as if it was yesterday. We were copastors. December 5 I will be leading a Service o Remembrance at our local funeral homes. I am grateful that you allow the use of your words as several times over the last year, you have written things that touch me and I hope will touch those I share with.
    I appreciate your writing. Thank you.

    • mary muir Says:

      I can relate my husband died a year ago this month – Please keep me in your prayers and I will pray for you as well

    • mary muir Says:

      I am touched that you are doing a service of remembrance at the funeral homes – what a gift to those who have lost loved ones. Jan’s words will be wonderful

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Mary Dell Sigler, thank you. I am grieving with you and thinking of you as you move through this week that holds the first anniversary of the death of your husband and partner in ministry. Thank you for your words about my writing. Holding you in prayer and sending many blessings as you prepare for the Service of Remembrance. Deep peace to you.

  13. Jan Richardson Says:

    Friends, I am so grateful for all your words – thank you for your thoughtfulness and for the ways you live with hope in your own lives. Thankful to be on this path with you! Blessings.

  14. Julia Attaway at Seeds of Devotion Says:

    One thing that has struck me in recent years is that hope in God is fundamentally different than hoping for a specific outcome. We must keep that deep hope — the one you speak of — in the face of sorrow, grief, suffering, hardship, and not-understanding.

    I think hope in God is wrapped up in that most difficult prayer, “Thy will be done.”

    I think hope in God is wrapped up in the words of the three men heading into the fiery furnace who asserted, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Yes, they will love God even if he does not deliver them from their current trial.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  15. Kathleen Malkiewicz Says:

    Jan,you have an amazing gift for articulating grief. I am so grateful I recently “found” you online. My husband died unexpectedly in 2012, my mother in 2013, and I know the pain of loss. I also know that God has sustained me through many dark days, even when I was angrier at God than I’ve ever been. Peace and blessings to you. Thank you!

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