Fleeting, it’s like a bird in flight,
or like a shooting star at night,
or lightning that spans the sky.
Gone in the blink of an eye.
Elusive, like the fog that lifts
when morning sun sends its gifts;
or the zigzagging butterfly
that you can’t catch; no use to try.
That’s my relationship to hope.
It’s like a wet bar of soap
that keeps giving me the slip.
Can’t keep it within my grip.
Hope that a blazing beam of light
will penetrate my soul’s dark night.
Hope that it will not seem strange
that how I think and feel will change.
Can God plant hope within a heart
for peace of mind and a fresh start?
Though right now I am without it,
God shouts “Yes!” Should I doubt it?
“Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
the help of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
When I’m caught in the vise grip of depression, hopelessness aptly describes me. Negative thinking typically complements a dark mood. The poem realistically depicts a hopeless mindset, but I end on a positive note. In an example of “preaching to myself,” I finished the poem with a Bible verse in which the author talked back to his despair and exalts God as the object and giver of hope.
The Bible and Hope
We tend to employ the term “hope” as a mere wish: either one that has little chance of materializing, or an outcome that we honestly don’t expect to happen. (We hope our assigned number in the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes wins the $5 million dollar prize. Or we hope the expected rain doesn’t wipe out our child’s baseball game.)
But in the Bible, hope is far more than merely a yearning or a hankering after something. The most common Old Testament word translated hope refers to a strong expectation, associated with trusting in or waiting on God. Similarly, in the New Testament, the primary Greek term translated hope is a confident expectation rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ and its promise of eternal life. For believers, hope isn’t based on random chance or a long-shot occurrence, but on a Person!
What distinguishes hope from a mere wish is the objective source of hope: God. Our hope deepens as we learn more about Him and His attributes. The more we focus on Him, instead of ourselves and the amount of faith we have (or don’t have), the more our faith and hope increase.
Mull over this small sampling of Bible verses and the insights they offer.
- The foundation of a Christian’s hope is a Person: either God the Father or Jesus Christ, His Son. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:5). Paul summarized the mystery of the gospel as “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
- Hope in the Lord and the gospel provides an impetus for ministry. Referring to his efforts to spread the gospel, Paul wrote, “To this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God” (1 Timothy 4:10).
- God’s Word links hope to the attributes of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).
- Hope in the gospel not only sustains us during trials, but stronger hope may be the outcome of suffering. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:4).
- Exercising hope in the Lord never lets us down due to the Holy Spirit’s work within us. “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
- Knowing the truths in God’s Word kindles hope within us. “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
- A Christian’s hope isn’t a flimsy wish or fantasy, but a confident assurance associated with virile faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
- Hope in the second coming of Christ purifies us during our earthly pilgrimage. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not ye appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).
- Our capacity to hope is a grace gift from God. “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16).
- Remembering God’s promises instills hope within us. The basis for Abraham’s hope for an heir stemmed from God’s repeated promise of an heir (Genesis 12:1-3, 13:16; 15:5-6). According to Romans 4:18, “In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told” (Romans 4:18).
No wonder R. C. Sproul said this about hope: “Hope is called the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19), because it gives stability to the Christian life. But hope is not simply a “wish” (I wish that such-and-such would take place); rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.”
Probes to Ponder
If someone asked you to summarize the insights about hope offered by this chapter, what would you say?
Which insight from the previous Bible references resonates most with you today? Why?
What causes hopelessness to settle in your heart or mind?
- An unanswered prayer concerning a burden that’s weighing you down?
- Relentless temptations that weaken your resistance?
- A flaw of your temperament that impinges on your happiness?
- Estrangement from a loved one that continues, despite repeated efforts to reconcile?
- Physical pain or an illness that medical intervention doesn’t alleviate?
Ask the Lord for the grace-gift of hope to sustain you during this difficult time.
Adapt the words and elements of this prayer so it conveys your unique situation:
Holy Spirit, when hopelessness or pessimistic thinking envelops me, please counter it by reminding me of all that You, God the Father and God the Son, have done for me. Stir up gratitude within me for my wife of over 50 years; for my two grown sons; my daughter-in-law and grandson, and for the close friends who know me well—yet somehow still love me! Remind me that this aging body will someday stop aching and it will become imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:42-43). Turn my mind to the reality that despair won’t stalk me in the new heaven and the new earth. Tears, pain, mourning and death won’t siphon off joy there (Revelation 21:4). Oh, please, instill hope rooted in Your faithful promises. And on those days here and now, when my faith is in short supply, remind me that the Object of my faith is unlimited in strength and power. In the name of Jesus, whose sacrificial death and resurrection provide an objective, historical basis for my hope, amen.
A Pertinent Word
Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
An Apt Quote
Here is the radical truth of the gospel. Hope is not a situation. Hope is not a location. Hope is not a possession. Hope is not an experience. Hope is more than an insight or a truism. Hope is a person, and his name is Jesus! He comes to you and makes a commitment of hope: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies