More than ever, people are in desperate need of a healthy dose of hope — a living hope — in this world. This is a dark chapter in the history of mankind; and it feels as if despair is closely crouching at our doorstep, ready to spring on us and take us down.
How do we find hope amidst all the evil, injustice, and cruelty that we are seeing taking place in the world around us?
Hope Living in Me
Recently in our Sunday morning Bible class, we studied 1 Peter 1, and I remember thinking that hope is written all over this chapter and feeling refreshed in my spirit after discussing it.
What particularly struck me was Peter’s reference to a “living hope.” This denotes a hope that is alive, vibrant, growing, and resilient.
I don’t know about you, but I want that kind of hope. I need that kind of hope, but what is it and how do I get it?
What Does Hope Mean in the Bible?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the verb form of hope means “to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true” or “to expect with confidence; trust.”
As a noun, hope is “desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.” If someone has no expectation of receiving something, meeting a goal, arriving at a destination, etc. then they do not have any hope of fulfilling their ambition and little or no motivation to try.
Additionally, inherent to the definition of hope is the desire for something that one has not yet attained or realized.
This is similar to what Paul writes in the book of Romans when he discusses hope, saying, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, through perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:24-25).
For many, hope is simply the belief that something better is waiting for them in the future or that there is some good to be gained in their present circumstances. According to Desmond Tutu, “hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
Perhaps we could also say with the early Christian theologian Tertullian, “Hope is patience with the lamp lit.”
Why is Hope Important?
However you define hope, I think we can all agree that hope is vital to every human being’s happiness and well-being.
Without hope, nearly any other positive trait is meaningless. Love without hope brings despair. Faith without hope is empty. Ambition without hope is futile. Jürgen Moltmann went so far as to state “Totally without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live.”
Even outside of the Bible, mankind has come to understand the deep importance of hope. Pliny the Elder is attributed with calling hope “the pillar that holds up the world.” According to Joseph Addison, “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.“
Interestingly, hope has been studied scientifically. In her article “Mission Impossible,” writer Kristen Weir states:
Hope is associated with many positive outcomes, including greater happiness, better academic achievement and even lowered risk of death. It’s a necessary ingredient for getting through tough times, of course, but also for meeting everyday goals. Everyone benefits from having hope — and psychologists’ research suggests almost anyone can be taught to be more hopeful.American Psychological Association
Without hope, one loses motivation and drive. There is no passion, energy, or perseverance without hope for something. Sadly, in today’s society we see the results of hopelessness time and again; lives are wrecked and even lost when a person has no hope.
Hope Comes From God
One important question to ask oneself is whether we can truly have hope outside of God. If one’s source of hope is purely earthly, materialistic, or self-made, then it ends with death.
In an article by Big Think titled “What Do Atheists Hope For?”, several atheists were interviewed about whether they could have hope in their lives and still be able to live fulfilled, meaningful lives even believing that everything ended at death.
Of course, each one answered that they found hope in various places and could still live worthwhile, fulfilling lives despite their beliefs. However, when one looks “down the line” to the ultimate meaning of the things they place their hope in, one still finds emptiness.
For example, one atheist told the interviewer that he found hope in simply enjoying the amazing experience of life like a DJ might enjoy a party; yes, it will end but just enjoy it while it lasts.
The major problems with this “hope” is that life is not always an amazing experience for most people and that there is no solid meaning in a life lived just for the temporary experience. A person living this way will always be chasing the next pleasurable experience.
Another atheist said he found meaning in his job, his family, and his interests such as art and music. However, again one can ask, “What’s the point? Where is the hope?” All of these pursuits will end with death and hold little meaning once this world is gone.
And one of the last atheists interviewed spoke some of the saddest, most hopeless words I have read in a while:
Yes, of course I know that life is ultimately without meaning or purpose, but the trick is not to wake up every morning and feel that way. … Cognitive dissonance? Embrace it. Create a sense of meaning and purpose by doing something useful with your life (I teach), being creative .… And most importantly, find people you like and love and spend lots of time with them. … And if you’re really stuck, eat rice and dal. Physically filling yourself with the food you love really does fill the emptiness you may feel inside.
All of the suggestions for what to find hope and meaning in as an atheist have such a hollow ring- loved ones will die; this world is moving toward disorder and chaos; the work one does at a job or hobby could realistically be done by someone else and will ultimately be forgotten or rendered pointless.
I think it is safe to conclude that hope outside of God is fragile and desolate. Therefore, substantial, lasting hope can only be found in the spiritual realm because it comes from God; it is not of this earthly life. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him” (Psalm 62:5).
In fact, in Romans 15:13, Paul calls God “the God of hope” and writes that He wants us to “abound in hope.”
The concept of hope is quite prevalent throughout the Bible. In fact, the word hope is used 164 times in the Bible in the English Standard Version. Clearly, God understands how important it is to us and wants us to anchor our hope in the right place.
How to Be More Hopeful
So, how do we get this “living hope” to which Peter refers? How can we abound or thrive in it? And in what is our hope as Christians grounded?
First of all, our hope is in Christ.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”(1 Peter 1:3-5)
As both Paul and Peter point out, a Christian’s hope is grounded in Jesus Christ’s resurrection, transcending this earthly life and promising a resurrection of our own; without the resurrection, our hope would crumble to pieces (1 Corinthians 15:12-26).
Due to the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can have peace in knowing we are forgiven, that we can have a flourishing relationship with Him in this life, and that an eternal life with Him awaits us after this earthly existence is over.
Paul reminds us of this in his letter to the Romans:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings,(Romans 5:1-5)
knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
We can see how this hope can be “living” because it is not passive; instead, it grows as we grow as Christians. As we better understand Jesus’ sacrifice and through it God’s love for us, as we discover the deep and precious gift of an eternal home in the presence of our God, and as we learn to focus on that and patiently endure the trials that come our way on this earth; then this hope transforms and thrives.
It becomes our anchor, our motivation, and our comfort. Because God fulfilled His promise of raising Jesus from the dead, we can have confidence in all the other promises He made to us in His Word. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
As we grasp the blessings of our Christian life here and the infinite beauty of the one to come,
we will abound in hope more and more.
Listen to the marvelous words penned in Ephesians:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.(Ephesians 1:16-20)
Write these words on your heart. There is living hope there!
And when we understand that our hope is not limited to this fragile, pitiful worldly existence, that there is a spiritual life here and now and in the world to come that is beautiful, and that we are assured of these promises by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; then our hope will abound.
Experience the Living Hope of Christ
Let it fill your life; let it motivate you to persevere; allow it to anchor you to the love of God day after day despite the cruelty that surrounds you and buffets your heart. Keep your eyes on Jesus and hold on!
If you would like to know more about Jesus, His death and resurrection, and the hope that we can have because of these things, please reach out to us! We want you to have this same living hope!