By Lin Johnson

What is hope? 

Desmond Tutu said,

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” It whispers, “You’ll overcome this hardship.” It reassures us, soothing our minds by reminding, “life will improve.”

Sometimes — most of the time — life can seem a bit disappointing. Even the greatest lives are full of profound loss and heartbreak. It seems that pain is inevitable, and while we may say that we know good can come out of it, what hurts still hurts.

In the process, one can quite easily lose hope: in life, in God, and even in oneself. Despair is often cyclical, spiraling one into depression and helplessness, leading to even greater despair. The result is that one sad thing leads to another and so on, until we feel that we can’t possibly break free. It can all be a bit too much for our souls to handle.

We often lose things. Some may be little things like keys, wallets and homework. Those small things that when they are lost become irritants in our lives. All those things are replicable. Often, when we lose important things like jobs, loved ones, pets and health, they are devastating and push us to our limits. However, we press on and adjust to life. When we lose hope, there is no pressing on.

There have been points throughout my life where I didn’t have the energy to fight. My ability to car about walking with God seemed to not only vanish but vaporize, leaving no trace of its existence. I wanted to give up, throw in the towel, hide under the blanket on my bed and never look back. Though God, in His infinite wisdom, kindness and love “laid beside me” and gently whispered hope. His whispers of hope brought back to life areas that were dead. I was reminded that I am the one who is broken and in need of hope.

Isn’t it amazing that God would come to us when we’re looking our worst and gently whisper hope to us. It’s such a beautiful concept — the kind of beauty that makes you want to cry just for the sake of how overwhelming it is. In our most dire moments, when our failures have outweighed our triumphs, when sadness has seemed to overcome any joy left in us, we need hope. And in those times, I believe that God sends the least expected people and circumstances into our lives to reinvigorate our spirits and remind us how good life still is.

In English, we often speak about hope when something in the future is not certain. For example, we say, ‘We hope that all will be well.’ But that is not the meaning of hope in the Bible. By the word ‘hope’, the Bible means that something in the future is certain. We should be confident because God will definitely do those good things. We can expect them to happen.

There is a close relationship between faith and hope. We see faith in our actions when we trust God. We see hope in our attitude when we have confidence in him. Both faith and hope depend on God’s promises. The author of Hebrews mentions several occasions when God made a promise with an oath. An oath is a serious declaration that he will do those things. The promise gives us faith. We have faith when we trust God’s promises. And the oath gives us hope. God gave the oath so that we would have confidence (or hope) in him (Hebrews 6:17-18).

Faith, hope and love are very important in the lives of Christians. They are three qualities that last always (1 Corinthians 13:13). Faith, hope and love are the things that make Christians strong. And when someone joins three strong things together, the result is even stronger (Ecclesiastes 4:12)!

What are the benefits of hope? Hope is a remedy for all sorts of hardships and misfortunes.  Hope motivates us to persevere when our lives are infused stressful life situations or painful events. Hope provides the gift of faith. It instills the will to believe, motivates a person to read sacred texts, to engage in prayer and meditation, to contemplate the mysteries of life and find answers. Hope reminds us to live a moral life—to be compassionate and kind.

Hope is a spiritual practice that enables us to feel “spiritual”, enabling us to experience awe, wonder, and delight. With hope, we are able to transcend the self, observe the beauty in nature, live in peace, be respectful to others, live mindfully, and believe in the unknown, the ineffable. Hope is an essential ingredient of optimism, which teaches us “dwell on the best possibilities” in a dire situation. Hope as a spiritual practice is a remedy for hopelessness, existentialism, nihilism.”

Hope is not wishful thinking, nor is it magical thinking. Hope is an emotion, a mindset, a belief, a motivation, that despite setbacks and obstacles, despite hardship and misfortune, despite the unknown last chapter of your life’s story, you believe that your life will work out, that when you take your last breath, there is something else beyond this world.

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) says

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Future and hope go together. We can’t face the future without hope. Part of God’s loving grace is the gift of hope.

Hebrews 11:1 (KJV) tells us that

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

My hope in God is the driving force for my faith in Him. Those of you with a strong experience of faith will likely be somewhere between a sure grasp of faith and an attitude which is little more than hope.  If you often find yourself dominated by feelings of despair, I urge you to spend more time in prayer and worship so that you might find the hope and faith you need in order to live more fully and more productively. 

Jesus said of himself,

I am the hope of all who know the living truth.”

The real spiritual challenge which we face is the strengthening of hope to the point where it becomes faith.  Hope is somewhat tentative — we hope for some particular reality but we are not completely sure of it.  The attitude of faith declares that the object of our hopes is indeed real. Living faith empowers us to live loyally to our highest ideals in the present moment. 

Hope is sustaining. Hope is intentional. Hope is strength. So I bid to you, as the book of Romans tells us,  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. As Christians without looking unto Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith, we cannot endure. We must focus on the joy which is set before us, which is Christ our hope.

Wherever you find yourself today, may you hear the whispers of hope.

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