Being a curious person with a strong desire for clarity, I was that classmate that always had a question. With maturity, I still have lots of questions. Here’s another.
The phrase “faith, hope and love” is such a theme of our social fabric that we see it on jewelry and home décor. From a spiritual perspective: I understand faith, I understand love. But hope? What exactly are we hoping for?
We don’t have to look far to find disturbing and frightening events happening on this earth. Corruption, violence, disaster and disease exist everywhere and always have. Yet we, as a species, appear to find enough in life to make it worth living. What in the world, or in our psyches, keeps us going? Modern day psychologists and ancient Biblical writers tell us it’s hope.
Where Hope Springs Forth
Hope is an emotion that springs from the heart, not the brain. It lays dormant until it’s amazing strength is beckoned, supplying the sheer belief that you will overcome, you will persevere, and you will endure anything and everything that comes your way.
Hope is also a perception. Unlike most perceptions, however, it has the possibility of creating reality. It’s a perception of something that does not yet exist. It is not a passive exercise in wishing or pretending but a perception of what is possible.
Research shows that when people have hope, their goals are more likely to become reality; they’re more likely to develop a plan and take steps to make it happen. Hope involves taking an objective look at the way things are but being daring enough to believe that a better future is possible. Some might call it foolhardy but many goals that some believed were impossible turned out to be possible.
Nehemiah wanted to rebuild Jerusalem from rubble and did it with the help of Jews who returned from exile in Babylon. In addition to their hope for protection from enemies, success in overpowering them and a redeemer; the great hope of the Israelites was for a homeland as is repeatedly expressed in the Old Testament. Rebuilding Jerusalem was another step toward their hope.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:10-12)
Are You a Hopeful Person?
The Israelites persisted for centuries, with fluctuation in success and borders, and again fulfilling their hope on May 14, 1948 when Israel became a nation. This persistence is a supreme example of hope and is supported by research by psychologist C. R. Snyder, who found that hope is at the heart of our goal pursuits. Through interviewing large numbers of hopeful people, he discovered that most had three things in common: goals, strategies, and a belief in their capabilities. They were under no illusions that all (or even most) of their strategies would work, so they tended to try multiple pathways. They recognized that working toward their goals would be difficult yet believed that they might be capable of doing it if they kept trying.
Benefits of Hope
Research indicates that hope can help us manage stress and anxiety and cope with adversity. It contributes to our well-being, happiness and resilience. Hope allow us to take a wider view and become more creative in our approach to problem solving. Hopeful people believe their efforts can have a positive impact.
Is there any better example of this than Paul when he was in prison? His letter to the Philippians begins with thanksgiving and joy, a remarkable response considering his lengthy imprisonment. His hopeful and eternal perspective were essential to Paul’s peace and joy.
Other positive emotions such as courage and confidence emerge from hope as was the case for two of the Egyptian exiles led by Moses. Joshua and Caleb were two Israelite spies who brought back a good report and believed that God would help them obtain the land of milk and honey.
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” Caleb said ”Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
As a result of their hope for a land of their own and faith in God’s promises, these two were the only men from their generation permitted to go into the Promised Land after their time of wandering
How to Attain Hope
Despite the Biblical and cultural emphasis on hope, we sometimes become overwhelmed with the pace of our life and the constant bad news we listen to. Nonetheless, the situation is not hopeless. Here are some tips on how to strengthen this virtue:
Faith is important. A belief that there is something bigger and more important than you, whether it’s God, a higher power, a child, a loved one, a mission or a cause, it is a reason to go on, and it has nothing to do with just you.
Gratitude is an easy virtue to practice. Focus on what you have to be thankful for, not on what you don’t have or what you have lost or what you want. Remind yourself of this every day. You will find that gratitude also goes a long way in building personal relationships as can be seen in this article.
Love is powerful. Think about the people in your life that you love and those that love you — family and friends. Make it a point to connect often with each one. This is best accomplished in person, but as we know that is not always possible. A phone call, text or a quick email will do. This article tells us that there is more love in our lives than we may think.
Seek inspiration and awe. Research by psychologist Dacher Keltner, PhD., shows that when we are so moved by something that we can hardly find the words to talk about it we are experiencing awe and that creates meaning, and positive feeling which contributes to a sense of hopefulness that can keep us moving forward. Awe reminds us of something bigger and vast. Causes us to slow down, think about what’s important to us, and connect in a deeper way.
Re-identify your goals. Maintaining a clear vision about what’s important and what we want to contribute and achieve also contributes to hope. When you are reminded of your big goals, the things that drive you to get up in the morning, you reconnect with your deeper values. Then, you’re more likely to persist because the process—the lifestyle that comes from living close to your values—helps you prevail despite obstacles. If you’re feeling hopeless, ask yourself what goals in your own life are worth persistent action.
Appreciate the setbacks and move through them. Hope is strengthened exponentially when you hit a setback and you persist despite it. Next time you run up against one, pay attention to what it offers you—a growth opportunity, a chance to learn something you need to know to accomplish your goals—then move through that challenge.
Now that we understand what hope is and how to attain it, I want to get back to my initial question; What is being hoped for, when the Bible speaks of it? You may notice, as I did, that although some Biblical objects of hope can be obtained through our actions (as described above), there are others that rely on faith alone; we merely trust in the Trinity and wait for the gifts bestowed on Christians. See if you can identify the ones below that can be advanced through activity: physical, mental or spiritual.
The Bible contains 180 (NIV) verses about hope. The object of hope is sometimes repetitive, so I am only selecting one of each.
Old Testament Statements about Hope
Note the emphasis on physical needs.
But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. (Psalm 9:18)
If we refer back to Psalm 10:17 we find that what the needy are hoping for is You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, (Psalm 33:18)
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20)
Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:49-50)
It is God’s word (the law) which gives guidance and instruction that preserves life for the Psalmist.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. (Psalm 130:7)
Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23)
Isaiah refers to a land of Israel and its God being accepted by their overlords.
Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, Lord our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this. (Jeremiah 14:22)
New Testament Statements about Hope
The Jews were oppressed by Rome and unaware of when their dreams of a sovereign land or messiah would be fulfilled. At this point, Jesus revealed more about the nature of God, his own role and further explained OT laws. By the time the New Testament writers sharpened their pens, Christianity had grown from a small sect around the Sea of Galilee to churches around the Mediterranean and beyond.
Note the greater variety in what is hoped for as the NT writers convey the Gospel and hope for the fulfillment of Christ’s words. Although some verses may appear alike, there is a nuance of difference.
Therefore, my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. (Acts 2:26-27)
Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. (Acts 8:22)
Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 23:6)
and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. (Acts 24:15)
“For this reason, I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” (Acts 28:20)
Here Paul is referring to Israel’s hope for the messiah
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:1-2)
This next one is one of my favorites as it emphasizes our close relationship with God:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Rom 8:14-17, 22-25)
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor 13:6-7)
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, (Eph 1: 17-20)
Wow! That one is worth extra thought and meditation. The ‘power’ referred to is the actual transformation of the whole person, accomplished as one is opened to receive the grace of God bestowed in Christ.
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)
For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess 5:7-9)
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, (Titus 1:1-3)
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (1 Peter 1:13)
18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. 20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’” 22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests, men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (Heb 7:18-28)
A statement of Christ’s amazing role in our present and future lives.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)
The object of Christian hope sometimes lacks clarity. But considering the verses in which the object of hope is clearly stated, along with my concordance’s explanations, I’ve found a better understanding of what NT writers were encouraging the churches to hope for, or indeed expect, as believers.
As psychologist Meg Van Deusen, author of Stressed in the U.S., wrote of hope, “When we have it we move and when we move we change things.” If you’re feeling hopeless, ask yourself what pathways you can walk right now—even with small steps—to help move toward greater faith, awe, love and goals you value.
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