Hope is one of those words that seem to have a different meaning in our current culture than it did when the Bible was written. When we think of hope in our everyday lives, it’s a wish. I hope it won’t rain tomorrow. I hope my team wins the championship. I hope the shoe store has my size. When the Bible talks about hope, it’s quite different. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). Biblical hope is something sure and definite, not simply something we would like to happen.
I used to think that this discrepancy was caused by a difference in the definition of the word in its original Greek or some cultural difference between the time when the Bible was written and now. However, when I look up the original definition of the word, I see that it really just means what we think it does. The difference, I discovered, is in what or whom our hope is placed.
The Source of Our Hope
If I’m hoping it doesn’t rain tomorrow, my hope is placed in shifting, unpredictable weather patterns. When I hope my team wins, my hope is placed in the athletes’ abilities. When hope is just an uncertain wish, it’s because we’re placing that hope in something or someone that’s uncertain and can’t be relied upon. They might be unable or unwilling to fulfill my wish. My team’s athletes may be unable to beat the other team and my shoe store may be unwilling to stock enough shoes my size.
When we put our hope in Christ, on the other hand, we can know that he and his promises are true and reliable. God is the only one we can fully depend on to have both the desire and the capability to fulfill his promises. His character never changes. He always is who he says he is and does what he says he will do.
Why do we need hope? Because the world we live in is cursed and full of sinful people. Without hope, we’re left saying along with Solomon, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) Because of sin, the world is scary, unpredictable, and frightening at times—as are the people, creatures, and forces of nature within it! Shootings, wars, illness, and death fill the news and our social media feeds. We also have our own relational conflicts and stresses—broken marriages, wayward children, and splintered friendships. Consequently, we need hope every day.
Hope in Christ involves looking forward toward an ultimate future with no sin, no pain, and no death. If we have placed our hope in Christ, we have a trust and surety that we will be there in the new heaven and new earth. Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” In 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, Paul wrote about our new imperishable bodies we can look forward to. The new heaven and earth with Christ reigning over all isn’t a wish that might happen, but a sure, rock-solid promise. God never changes and he is both willing and able to make his will come true. Romans 8:18-25 talks about how the entire creation is groaning, waiting to be put back to the way it was intended to be. We wait in hope, knowing that God will do what he promised. So when life gets difficult, we can look forward and have perseverance to deal with current trials knowing that the future will be much, much better.
Our hope in Christ isn’t confined to the distant future. Hope also looks to the near future within our lifetimes. God promises to work all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose (v. 28). When bad things happen, we can know that God will work it out for good. That doesn’t mean that we’re happy about it at the time, of course, but we can have hope that God is in complete control and will work out the circumstances for our good and his glory. That good may happen in our lifetime or it may not. He may heal us from an illness or injury, or he may not. But we can hope and trust that God will take our trials and challenges and use them for good. He might use our trials to encourage someone else or lead them to a relationship with Christ. He may use our difficulties to draw us closer to him and trust him more. The “good” may not be evident right away, but we can trust that he will fulfill his promise.
Looking to Today
Finally, hope also looks to today. Hope says that God is with me today in whatever I need to walk through. He will never leave us or forsake us. He walks with us in the fire. Hope says that I have a reason and a purpose for being here. Life isn’t meaningless, because God gives it purpose. In Psalm 42, the author sounds depressed and in despair. “My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:3). We don’t know his circumstances, but life was clearly not going the way he wanted. He was honest about his feelings of despair, but he didn’t stay there. He spoke truth to himself. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (v. 5) The author acknowledged that placing his hope in God, rather than in his circumstances, was the answer to his feelings of depression and despair.
The world around us is in desperate need of hope. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have” (1 Peter 3:15). As our world gets darker and darker, our hope seems to be an easier transition to sharing the gospel than ever before. People are depressed and anxious about mass shootings, political disagreements, natural disasters, and diseases. Back when the Ebola virus was the big scare, I remember walking on a treadmill in the gym next to another woman as we watched the news on TV. She expressed her worry over the situation and it was an easy segue to sharing about hope in Christ.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). God is a God of hope. He gives us hope for today, tomorrow, and for when he returns to the earth to reign. Then we can exchange our broken bodies for new ones that won’t deteriorate and live in a world without sin. We can embrace that hope as a sure thing because he is both able and willing to fulfill his promises.
Amy Simon is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom of three in Wisconsin. You can find her online at facebook.com/amysimonwriter.