Have you noticed how often you use the word “hope,” and how wide-ranging hope is? Examples: for good weather; that your spouse will remember to pick up milk on the way home; that your grades will get you into graduate school; for the healing of a relationship; for a better job, a good report from medical tests, a better yield on your investments.
Hope leans expectantly toward some unfulfilled desire or need, and this emotion/mental activity is unique to humans, since hope projects the mind to the future, and other creatures seem to be aware only of the present.
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.
Again and again, the Scriptures exhort us to exercise hope to fend off despair. 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. Hebrews 6:19 says that we have hope in Christ for the world to come, and this particular hope serves as an anchor to stabilize our everyday life, to face whatever storms we may encounter (Hebrews 6:19).
And our hope in our eternal lives together with Christ is key. For, as St. Paul says, “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 those rugged places in life’s journey? The unanswered prayers? The broken hearts? The frustrated desires? 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. He assures us that this hope does not disappoint.
The Apostle Paul, who knew disappointment, physical pain, and adversity to a degree few of us face, 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).
And, God’s love in our hearts testifies to those around us to the faith (hope and trust) he has given us (5:5).
Photo credit: (pol sifter via flickr.com)