I’ve put off writing this for days now, as if procrastination was the cure for self-doubt. Choked by grand visions of producing a well-researched scholarly article (despite knowing nothing about seminary or the process for such work), full of impressive citations and deep insights. Basically, I was going to wow you with my wisdom. Ha! Delusional.
Instead, I’m still sitting here in lockdown—literally sitting, because I managed to sprain my ankle—and I’ve listened to way too many true-crime podcasts instead of actually doing the research. But that’s another story.
It’s a strange season to be in and it feels odd to write about hope when the world feels so precarious. I suppose that’s when hope is all the more needed.* But where to find it?
I wonder if hope starts with thankfulness. Thanking God, for what he is doing today, even when I don’t see it. For his mercies that are new every morning. Cultivating gratitude for his faithfulness in the past and that I can trust him with my future.
Hope and thankfulness are both rooted in God’s character. We know he is good because of what he’s done for us (and others) in the past. Thankfulness grows from meditating on his goodness and we become hopeful when we expect more of the same—that the God who showed himself to be good before will do so again.** This kind of hope is what you can hang onto even when the situation seems grim. This kind of hope draws strength from who God is rather than what’s going on around you, and it flourishes when you focus on God’s goodness and spend your time and energy praising him for who he is and what he’s done. This is also how you grow, both in hope and in character:
Romans 5:1-5 (NKJV)
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
So while the world is still going crazy, I remember the words of David in Psalm 27:13-14
“I believe that I shall look upon
the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
wait for the Lord.”
The Psalms are a great place to go in times like these, because they’re full of people wrestling with the exact same issues. Joy and sorrow, hope and despair - they remind us to turn to God in every situation and with every emotion. He’s not intimidated by you, or your responses to things. Jesus knows exactly what it means to experience despair and defeat - he went through both at the cross. But he didn’t stay there.
The Baker Bible Dictionary puts it this way “Biblical hope is hope in what God will do in the future. At the heart of Christian hope is the resurrection of Jesus.”
As you read through the Bible you will also find that hope isn’t a passive thing. It’s not something that happens to you. It’s not even really an emotion. Look at people like Ruth, David, Paul - they forced themselves to keep trusting in God.*** To keep hoping in his goodness despite everything that happened to them. Even when they were really suffering, they still turned to God in hope:
Psalm 31:13-16, 19 (David again)
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies
and from my persecutors!
Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
…Oh how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind.
And finally, there is Jesus, who went through the ultimate suffering and still hoped in the goodness of God.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Yes, let's keep our eyes on Jesus! Keep trusting that he has good plans for our lives, and that he is faithful to fulfil his promises to us. Both promises for the present, and the ultimate promise that he will one day make the world new and that all creation will be restored to what it was always meant to be. If real hope comes from knowing who God is, then let’s keep drawing strength from the reality of his goodness in every situation.
This part is just to prove that I did some actual research 😂
*The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible defines Hope as “An expectation or belief in the fulfillment of something desired. Present hurts and uncertainty over what the future holds create the constant need for hope. Worldwide poverty, hunger, disease, and human potential to generate terror and destruction create a longing for something better. Historically people have looked to the future with a mixture of longing and fear.”
McAlister, P. K. (1988). Hope. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 996). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
**Hope: The confidence that, by integrating God’s redemptive acts in the past with trusting human responses in the present, the faithful will experience the fullness of God’s goodness both in the present and in the future. Biblical faith rests on the trustworthiness of God to keep His promises.
Craver, B. (2016). Hope. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
***The patriarch Abraham is a model of faith and hope. In spite of the realities that surrounded him, “no distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (Rom 4:20, 21). Christian faith and hope, like Abraham’s, are based on the faithfulness of God.
McAlister, P. K. (1988). Hope. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 997). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.