Hope. This is a word which I have often used – jam packed with meaning. There is hope for medical cures, hope for financial success, hope for love, and hope for progress that will lead to a brighter tomorrow. But lately I have wrestled with what having hope really means, particularly as it relates to hoping in God.
One of the common features about all of these hopes is that they are desires for outcomes about which I have little or no ability to produce on my own. I am not able to produce a cure for cancer, I am not capable of controlling the stock market, and I am not able to control how people feel about me. As hard as I try to move forward, there are frequently unforeseen disasters that thwart my progress.
Hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown. Some have even said that the biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” I would go one step further to say that in the English language it takes two words to define the state of my mental being with regard to the unknown and unfulfilled future; faith is the “confident” component and hope is the component of “expectation.”
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
This “confident expectation” is the belief that something is going to happen and that “something” is based on a promise or proclamation that God has made to us. For instance:
“We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, but especially of those who have faith. That’s why we work and struggle so hard.” I Timothy 4:10; or “My dear friends, we are already God’s children, though what we will be hasn’t yet been seen. But we do know that when Christ returns, we will be like him, because we will see him as he truly is. This hope makes us keep ourselves holy, just as Christ is holy.” I John 3:2-3.
For me, faith and hope are the complete trust that my expectations are going to be fully met. And I cannot have one without the other. To trust without expectation is to be dull and stoic. To hope without trust is to merely wistfully wish. Thus, faith and hope are inseparable. And to have faith and hope in any thing or any one apart from an all mighty God is less than I desire, because I want a cure, I want security, I want to achieve, and I want love. And God is the only perfect one I know who can deliver.
Although I desperately need them now, faith and hope are temporary. As soon as all expectations are met there will no longer be need for them. (That’s Heaven!) I think that is the point of I Corinthians 13, the famous chapter of love. Love is the only component that is eternal. While the whole chapter is a worthy read, the last two verses sum it up so well, (I Corinthians 13:12-13)
12 Now all we can see of God
is like a cloudy picture
in a mirror.
Later we will see him
face to face.
We don’t know everything,
but then we will,
just as God completely
13 For now there are faith,
hope, and love.
But of these three,
the greatest is love.