Have you ever noticed how often you use the word “hope?” And the wide range of things you hope for? You hope for good weather. That your husband will remember to pick up milk on the way home. That your grades will get you into grad school.
Hope stands for some unfulfilled desire or need that you can’t satisfy on your own. So you hope, hope, hope.
We hope for the healing of a broken relationship; for a mate to share one’s life with; a better job; a good report from medical tests; a better yield on investments. The list could fill the page.
Hope is unique among the vertebrates. Does an Orangutan ever sit in the crotch of a tree and ponder his hopes for the future? Not likely. A fellow human may. Your neighbor sits in his backyard and thinks with confidence: I hope to have my mortgage paid off in 15 years.
This human capacity for hope is a marvelous gift. “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” wrote Alexander Pope. So it does, but hope must be exercised.
The Scriptures take careful note of this fact. Again and again they exhort us to fend off despair with hope. Here’s only one of many examples: “Why are you downcast O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
The New Testament gives sharper focus to the eternal aspect of our hope. We have hope in Christ for the world to come and this serves as an anchor to the faith we live by from day to day (Hebrews 6:19). This anchor of hope stabilizes our everyday life, whatever storms we may encounter.
The Apostle Paul writes that we are to learn to rejoice in the sufferings that come to us because these sufferings produce perseverance, character, and hope. And this hope does not disappoint. In fact, as we hope, God’s love in our hearts testifies to the certainty of the faith he has given us (Romans 5:3-5). What a wonderful mix of character ingredients!
So, we guard against limiting our Christian hopes to the things of this life alone. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19). The fulness of our hope is in the world to come.
But, what about the rugged places in life’s present journey? What about the unanswered prayers? The broken hearts? The frustrated desires?
For these the Apostle Paul, who knew disappointment and adversity to the degree few of us have, offers us a timeless benediction: “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).