It was the end of a very long day. Work had been demanding, even punishing, and I was exhausted. I was on my way out of the building when one of our guests, a man who has chronic mental health problems, and said, “Are you OK, Marion? I hope you are able to rest this evening.” The next day he stopped me again and said “I could see you were very tired yesterday, Marion. I hope you are feeling better today.”

All this might seem run of the mill. Nothing special. But it was far from normal. In order to appreciate quite how special it was you have to understand a little of the person who had spoken these words to me. John, who had long suffered from severe psychosis, was usually so preoccupied with the voices in his head that he was oblivious to others around him. When he wasn’t taken up with his tortured thoughts he was raking through bins, looking for cigarette ends. But on that occasion his innate compassion showed through, and I was deeply touched. John brought a moment of hope in a stressful and dark time.

Hope is at the very centre of the Christian faith – and we certainly need in times like these! As the cost of living rises, as we hear of wars in our world, climate crises, not to mention all the things going on in our own lives, we certainly need to have something to look forward to, to help us to keep going! The Bible, of course, has lots to say about hope. In Romans 8, Paul points us forward to the end times, when our present suffering will come to an end and when believers will be revealed as the sons and daughters of God – in other words, when believers become the kind of people that God intended all along. In 1 Thessalonians, he speaks of the time when Jesus will return and we will be with God for ever. The writer of the book of Revelation looks forward to the time when, God will wipe away all tears from our eyes. There will, he says, be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev 21).

These are wonderful pictures of the future, when all will be well, and God will be “all in all”. But what about now? How are we supposed to keep going when things seem overwhelming? The writer of Proverbs 13:12 knows that we cannot live solely in the future. We need something in the here and now, otherwise we run the risk of becoming “heartsick”.

We can return to Paul to help us here. For him, (and the author of the epistle of James, incidentally), hope is always linked with faith and love. The three cannot be understood in isolation. Our hope is rooted in what we know of Jesus (faith). But it is also inseparable from love, which Paul asserts is the greatest of the three (1 Cor 13). But how does love bring about hope? We can immediately point to the love which Christ brings into people’s lives, but those of us who are called to be followers of Christ are also called to bring hope into the lives of others through acts of service and love. When we do so hope is no longer deferred, but a reality in the here and now – for we are bringing something of the future hope into the present time. Recently at Glasgow City Mission we had an amazing example of this, when, in an especially cold snap and at very short notice, volunteers responded to our request to help keep the Overnight Welcome Centre open for a few extra hours in the morning, so that our guests could remain safely warm. In their sacrificial service, they became “beacons of hope” in the cold, dark mornings.

John’s loving concern for me brought me hope that day. His simple words helped me to keep going. For me, he was a beacon of hope in a stressful time – giving me a glimpse of the love that will prevail when God is “all in all”. Rooted in faith, we too can become beacons of hope by serving one another in love. We need not become “heartsick” but, by serving and caring for one another, we can bring glimpses of God’s future hope in the present time.

Marion Carson