The small Midwest town I live in has a school with a unique name: Hope.
Hope College is one of the pinnacles of this small town. And though small for a college, it has a lot of influence in the community. For the first several years living here, the first question I was often asked was what year I graduated from Hope College. And unfortunately, I had to deliver the news that Hope was NOT my alma mater. But I find some humor in the fact that “hope” (the noun, not the college) is something God has been “schooling” me in since moving here.
It feels like hope has become a lost treasure in our society. Even in the modest, serene Midwest town I live in, I encounter not just a lack of hope, but emotional fatigue, despair, heartache, doubts and fear. It seems like hope should be a natural thing for Christians, but sadly it is not.
We post beautiful and inspirational pictures on our instagram about hope, but what is it really? We talk about hope in our churches, groups, and communities, but how should it change us? We read about hope in the Bible, but what is our hope in? If you are like me, you have answers to these questions, in theory. But then turbulence hits and emotions still win over hope. Are we really living hope?
I just recently encountered the definition of “hope” for Webster’s 1812 Dictionary. Please take a moment to read it, then read it again. We can find rich truths here:
HOPE, noun [Latin cupio.]
1. A desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable. Hope differs from wish and desire in this, that it implies some expectation of obtaining the good desired, or the possibility of possessing it. Hope therefore always gives pleasure or joy; whereas wish and desire may produce or be accompanied with pain and anxiety.
Did you read it? Did you see that last line? Whoa! Am I right? It seems likely that the anxiety, fear, and ultimately pain that I have been experiencing is ultimately tied to a wish or desire, rather than hope? Have I miss understood hope?
Funny thing, one of the bigger landmarks at Hope College is a gigantic anchor sitting on the lawn of the incredibly ornate campus buildings. It’s appropriate, because it reminds me of this verse:
This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Hebrews 16:19 (NLT)
Hope is that thing we need to hold us steady. To anchor, not just our emotions, but our very souls to something bigger, greater, and stronger than anything in this world. What is the “this hope” that the author speaks of here?
I hope (see what I did there), that you take time to read more of Hebrews 6. In fact, all of Hebrews is an incredible book to read! In it, the author reminds his readers of all that Christ has done for us, so that we can have a relationship with our Holy and loving God. He tells us of God’s promises to us and the care he has for us, while also reminding us of the joy we will have when obeying God. And, he reminds us in verse 6:18 that God’s promises are true because God does not lie!
So let’s connect the dots…
1) We know hope is stronger than a wish or desire, and can produce joy. 2) Hope is what anchors our souls in this crazy world. 3) Our hope, as Christians, is in a God that has not only given everything for us, but gives us promises that will hold true for eternity.
When I put these dots together, I realize where I often get off kilter. I think it goes back to the very first point. There is a piece of me that is not confident in God’s promises. I wish and desire for them to be true, and for him to come through for me. But, the expectation that he’ll actually do it? Maybe not.
Anxiety ensures. Fear reigns. Doubts take hold. I end up feeling defeated, drained, hopeless. I know this is not what God wants for me and you. I think that is why in another place in His Word, He says “and these three remain, faith, hope and love” (1 Cor. 13:13) God wants us to, by faith, hope in a God that loves us. We can have more than just a little expectation in God.
Hope a gift given from God, transferred to you and me by His Spirit. Hope comes with practice as we strengthen our spiritual muscles of faith. Hope comes through experiencing God’s faithfulness and taking time to remember it. In my experience, the best way to allow hope to grow within me is by reading the Word of God and spending time with Him. The more I feed myself of the nuggets of truth, the less I doubt His character and the more hopeful becomes my trust.
We live in a world that completely counters God’s Word and His promises. You need to know that you will constantly be hearing messages that tell you why you should not hope. It permeates our souls more than we could possibly realize. God doesn’t just want us to read His Word as another religious box to check off. He wants us to know it so that we can constantly be alert to the lies of this world and remind ourselves of Who God is.
Hope is more than a wish or desire. Knowing where we set our hope can blow our anxiety away like a leaf in the wind. We can go from just knowing the hope, to truly living the hope. A process we are all in together.