Recently, I came across the phrase, ‘HOPE IS EVERYTHING’. It was engraved on a park bench, which seemed as if it was proclaiming this truth to those walking by. But even the people coming to sit on it might not have noticed these faint words.
As I watched people walk by the bench, I wondered …
What does hope look like for them?
What does hope look like to me?
What does hope look like in the Bible?
In our broken world, we might feel there isn’t much hope. For the person who is dying of a terminal illness, or one who has just lost someone dear, or a patient finding out that one has a life-crippling disease to be endured for the rest of one’s life, or a refugee in a country where they can’t even understand the language, or a soldier caught in the crossfire of a raging war, what hope can be seen in their situations?
When I look at Vincent van Gogh’s famous paintings of sunflowers, I see hope. The sunflowers are dying, with their petals drooping slightly with brown discolouration. Yet, the many seeds that are in the middle of the flowers contain so much hope for the future. New beginnings await. Are we looking at the dying petals or the spring of hope that is to come?
WHAT DOES HOPE MEAN TO YOU?
Is hope some sort of wishful thinking? Perhaps it’s something as consequential as, “I hope to get good grades in school without working hard,” or something as simple as, “I hope tomorrow will be a sunny day even though the weather forecast says it’ll rain.” This is one sense of hoping, but thankfully, God’s hope isn’t as uncertain and unreasonable as that.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT HOPE?
When Paul and Silas were in jail, chained up to the wall, what was their song of hope then (Acts 16)? They were singing praises to God while in their chains before any quiver of the earthquake that broke their chains had begun. Yet, their hearts were hopeful in the One who could save them.
Paul declared, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Hope of eternity with the One he loved was the hope that kept Paul going and pursuing after Christ. In all he did and had to endure, Paul professed this hope of glory that awaited him (Col 1:27). In the same way, we have that same hope of glory in Christ.
I like the way John Piper puts it in his sermon series on hope to his church in Bethlehem. He preached that “biblical hope is not just a desire for something good in the future, but rather, biblical hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.”
Even if at this moment, things are not going well, there is still something good in the future we can look forward to. There is a hope we can cling on to. And cling on tight we must.
Jesus Christ came to earth, died on the cross and rose again so that we now have the assured hope of being reconciled with God when we believe in Him (1 Pet 1:3). Jesus, having walked this earth as a human, understands our pain, our hurt, our insecurity. On this side of eternity, life does get tough, but we are not alone. God knows each of our journeys and He is with us through it all.
Christ is the steadfast, never-changing hope that we can cling onto and trust, because He is faithful and He loves us so deeply. Only because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8), and what He promises He will do, we can then stand upon His assured hope.
Biblical hope is not just a desire for something good in the future,
but rather, biblical hope is a confident expectation and desire
for something good in the future.
Although hope is there for our taking, we often forget. When life gets hard and we look around us, we despair. When our school grades don’t match up to our expectations, or when our friends talk behind our backs, making us feel excluded and alone, or when we are not good enough in our own eyes compared to others, or when we have no solution for our family which is breaking apart, we despair. The psalmist knew the tendency for humans to despair, especially when the going gets tough, thus the intentional proclamation in Psalm 42:5,
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him,
my Saviour and my God.
God is our help. He is our unshakeable rock (2 Sam 22:32, Ps 18:31, Is 26:4) in whom we can trust. Listen to how the psalmist puts it. “Hope in God!” he says, almost like a command, asking you to choose hope. It isn’t just a passive sit-back-and-let-me-be-filled-with-hope. It is an active, intentional action. Choose to hope. Tell yourself to hope. Because in our fallenness, with the brokenness of our world and the pain we experience in life, hoping does not come naturally. If we don’t preach hope to ourselves, despair may give way to discouragement and a disturbed spirit.
When the Israelites were stuck in between the Red Sea and the Egyptian Army that was in hot pursuit of them, terror met them face to face. Hope was not a close friend. But Moses stood firm and declared, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today … The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exod 14:13–14). In essence, what Moses was saying to them was, in the missionary William Carey’s words, “Expect great things from God!”
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him,
my Saviour and my God.
HOPE AMID DESPAIR
Don’t despair! Hope in God and see Him work for your good as He did for Israel in and out of Egypt. God delivered His people from the hands of their oppressors and He is more than able to deliver you from oppression.
When we look at hope, we can see it as a “reservoir of emotional strength”, as preached by John Piper. People will fail us and we will encounter situations that look bleak and we will at times feel helpless. But in those moments, let the emotional reservoir of hope in God lift you up. When things do not go the way you imagined, let your hope in God push you on to keep trying. When you encounter temptations to step away from the right path, let the emotional reservoir of hope in God give you strength to stick to the path of righteousness and deny yourself temporary, short-lived pleasures.
Remember that biblical hope is ours to hold onto and be assured that we can expect good in the future because of Christ in our story. And as we walk this journey, our hearts can be lifted to know that God does not leave us to ourselves. He holds our hand and walks alongside us.
God delivered the Israelites from the hands of their oppressors
and He is more than able to deliver you from oppression.
AN ONGOING STORY OF HOPE
Katherine and Jay Wolf from Hope Heals share their stories of hope amid the deep suffering they have been through and are still working through. Hope Heals was set up to share Katherine and Jay’s story through books, podcasts and camps to challenge the myth that joy is only found in a pain-free life. Rather, they are stating that joy can be found in a good/hard story that God is writing in each of our lives.
Katherine was only 26 years old when she was struck with a near-fatal brain-stem stroke caused by a congenital brain defect that she was entirely unaware of. She had given birth to her baby boy just six months earlier. Their world came crashing down and their lives were flooded with too many questions they had no answers to. But God planted in them hope that did not disappoint. The emotional reservoir of hope they had been building kept them going.
One 16-hour brain surgery, 40 days in the Intensive Care Unit, 11 surgeries, and one year in a neuro-rehabilitation centre later, Katherine and Jay’s faith in God has only deepened. Katherine shared, “You have a stunning capacity to endure incredibly hard things because of Jesus in your story …. May you see your life as a good/hard story that God Himself is writing.”
What does hope look like to you?
Who do you get your hope from?
Let that hope be Jesus.
He gives us hope in this life that nothing and no one else ever can.
JESUS IS EVERYTHING.