Hope has become a misunderstood virtue in today’s secular world. As I write this post the world is facing multiple natural disasters, terrorism, threats of destruction between countries, diseases, pollution, and so much more, along with each person’s own daily struggles. Personally, I am waiting on a call concerning my third biopsy that looks like I will be dealing with melanoma (skin cancer) for the third time. I am young with young children and my pain is real with what this may mean for my future plans, desires, and my children. It is easy to lose hope, become angry, frustrated, and depressed; however, that is what worldly hope causes not true Christian hope.
Worldly hope says the cancer will go away, the storm will move away from my home, the stubborn person will change because we show them how, and on we could go. However, sometimes the cancer spreads, the storm directly hits our home, and that person we love and are trying to move away from destructive habits remains unmovable. This false hope more times than not leads to anger, doubt, frustration, depression, and abandoning God. We can of course pray for these things (I strongly believe in the power of prayer.); likewise, we can adjust habits in our lives to create a more probable outcome to make desires more likely to happen. However, this does not guarantee that what we wish, pray, desire, or hope for will happen the way we want.
However, we can be guaranteed of God’s promises and this is where true hope comes from. God never promised this life would be easy; in fact, Jesus says in John 17:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (NLT). When all seems lost and we have nothing else to stand on we can always rest in the assurance that if we have accepted Christ in our hearts that one day all the pain and suffering will end. Furthermore, there are many individuals in the Bible that are examples of true hope including Abraham, Job, and Jeremiah, to name a few. In Romans 4:18 Paul references the Old Testament when he says, “Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping-believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” (NLT). Abraham had hope in God’s promise, even when all worldly odds seemed against it, because Abraham had seen God keep His promises in the past. He knew God was faithful just as we can see through Scriptures and His working through individuals today.
When things do not turn out as we desire we must trust and understand that God is working somehow through us and our situations to better us and work toward His plan. Our human minds can not always fully understand what God is working through us but what we can hold on to is He has promised to never abandon us through all our experiences. Scripture assures we are never left alone just as God did not leave those in Scriptures alone that trusted and followed His lead (Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 41:10-13; 1 Peter 5:7). Lamentations 3:20-22 shows trusting in God admits grief, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease” (NLT). When we call and trust in God He supplies us with strength and courage as He works out His purposes through us. This not only supplies us with strength beyond worldly understanding but can help lead others to Christ and provide them hope in their struggles.
Applying Biblical Hope
The world will always try to pull us back to false hope. To rise above this it is pertinent that we immerse ourselves in Scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in interpreting them properly. In doing so, we find strength in seeing God work His plan through those in biblical times and can see how God has always kept His promises throughout history. Furthermore, unless we consistently immerse ourselves in Scriptures we will not understand the promises God has given to us and therefore will not have a foundation to build true biblical hope on. Hope is not a virtue that will become strong immediately for everyone. It takes time in Scriptures, prayer, seeing God working through others, and seeing God’s hand in our own life before that hope is strengthened. However, the best time to start doing this is before trouble strikes. In the book Theology Applied: A Living Faith, it states, “I strongly believe that unless you have determined before you enter a difficult situation why you want to be faithful to God, then the answer may not come to you in that stressful moment” (Etzel & Gutierrez, 2012, p.3). It is easy to lose hope in a world full of evil, disease, and tragedy. As I stated before, I face skin cancer; however, I have faced many other difficulties in my life including child abuse, open heart surgery at seventeen, a persistent heart condition, a car accident that claimed the lives of my six-year-old sister and soon to be step-father, and left my mom disabled for life, a daughter fighting Lyme’s disease, and many other trials and tribulations. At times it can become overwhelming, scary, and exhausting. My hope has become weak at times and I had to pull myself back from the trap of worldly hope and run to the restoring hope of Christ. However, Christian hope is the only hope that allows you to face these battles with courage and see the victory on the other side of the pain. It allows you to move on and help others and be ready the next time life throws you a punch.
Things do not always turn out the way we plan. The storm hits our house, the cancer spreads, a child dies. The only way to rise above these unbearable facts of living in a fallen world is to hold fast to the promises of God. He is always there for us if we call on Him and trust in Him. He will give us courage and strength when we have nothing left to give, He will make all things new when Christ returns, and He is working on a perfect plan through us far beyond what we can ever comprehend. When the world pulls us back to false hope run to God who will comfort, protect, and renew you as He calls for you to trust and have hope in Him.
Etzel, G., & Gutierrez, B. (2012). Theology applied: A living faith. Chattanooga, TN: B&H Academic. ISBN: 9781932213881.
Stout, D. (2017). The theological perspective of hope. Liberty University, VA.