2023 Advent Appeal

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 —Romans 15:13

November 20, 2023

Dear Friends,

I have been thinking a lot about hope lately, not just for myself, but especially for the millions of people across the world who suffer under the iron heel of war, who weather famine and natural disaster at the front lines of the climate crisis, and who bear the burdens of injustice every day. How are they supposed to hold onto hope? Where do they find the resilience to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and rebuild? For they so often do precisely that, and that is a mysterious and wondrous thing.

Equipping students to both recognize and enact God’s healing work in the world has always lain at the heart of our educational mission at ICS—and your support is fundamental to this task. ICS classes, conferences, and conversations challenge our students to face the difficult issues of contemporary scholarship and society and to lead their communities in redemptive hope. But how, in the face of all the evils we see today, do we continue to foster resilient practices of hope and not despair?

When I first read Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America, I was struck by a particular section in which he describes a supportive relationship between the very different emotions of joy and grief. He contrasts these related emotions to the equally reinforcing pair of pride and despair (pp.103-8). Unlike pride and despair, joy and grief mark the boundaries of what Berry calls “the human estate.” When we accept the gift of our lives within these bounds, then in those all-too-frequent moments of darkness that dash our joy and conspire against our hope, we will respond with grief rather than despair. Unlike despair, grief carves a difficult path that enables us to work through our loss so that we can live to hope another day. That is what it means to hope against hope.

Of course, what I have said about holding on to hope through the work of grief is easier said than done. Indeed, against so much evidence to the contrary, scripture asks us nevertheless to trust that God is at work healing, restoring, and renewing the world. But is that really so hard a thing to believe, after all? For we see God’s redemptive work wherever we witness the possibility of redemption being made real, whenever a cup of cold water is offered to someone who thirsts. However rare and fleeting such moments may be, their very existence bears witness to the fact that any and every moment is one in which the healing love that suffuses creation might break through.

This Advent season, we thank you for the financial and prayerful support you have given ICS in our particular calling to shape hopeful Christian imaginations. We also invite you to partner with us in active expectation as we yearn for “that day” when such possibility becomes fully actual, when our redeeming God will be all, in all. Until then, we live and act in hope, gaining the joy and peace that fills us when we let go and trust in our Maker and Redeemer’s shalom way.

As you read the latest issue of Perspective, we hope you especially enjoy hearing directly from our newest Senior Member Neal DeRoo and our newest Junior Members about how the spirit of lifelong learning at ICS shapes and enables their own redemptive hopes for their studies, careers, lives, and faith. Your generosity makes these learning journeys possible.


Ronald A. Kuipers