Hope When Hope Is Lost
There’s nothing more torturous, yet more necessary, than hope.
There is nothing more satisfying than a realized hope, and there’s nothing more sickening than having your hopes dashed. Truly, the words Proverbs 13:12 resonate with our experience: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
We can’t help but hope. We hope for better days, for fulfilled dreams, for restored relationships, for financial security, for personal happiness. We tell ourselves the risk is worth the reward, we plug our ears when the pessimists call our hopes “wishful thinking” and we guard vigilantly against any threat to our hopes.
But there is one painful reality that we can’t shake: the strength of our hope cannot ultimately ensure the realization of our hope. You can hope all you want. You can take measures to reduce the variables. But all it takes is one unforeseen circumstance (like a global pandemic) to destroy everything you’ve worked for. And hope is ripped away. Hope can bring happiness, but it can also bring despair.
These realities have forced us to completely sever hope from expectation. As the saying goes, “Expect the worst, hope for the best.” In this world, the only thing that is reliable is “the worst” - pain and suffering, inconvenience and trouble. Hope is necessary, and so we hope, but the pain of life has taught us to no longer combine our hope with expectation.
Perhaps you find yourself right now in a moment of hopelessness. Your heart is sick from “hope deferred.” Can I take a risk and give you something to hope for? Actually, it’s not a risk at all—it’s the safest and most satisfying thing in which we can place our hope.
The Christian Hope
As Christians, our hope is sourced outside of ourselves. We deserve punishment and separation from God, but because of Christ’s substitutionary atonement for our sins, we have hope: we hope in the future resurrection of our bodies, free from sin and suffering. We hope in the restoration of all creation. We hope in a heavenly inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4). We hope that all things wrong will soon be made right.
We believe that it is foolish to place our hope in anything other than God (Job 41:9; Psa 33:17; 62:10; 1 Tim 6:17), and therefore, we believe that those who are without God are “without hope” (Eph 2:12).
But if you know God and believe his promises, you can actually combine expectation and hope. Your hope is your expectation. To make such a claim isn’t arrogant or presumptuous, because it is rooted in something more reliable than the very air you breathe or the ground you on which you stand.
The Divine Equation
Hebrews 11:1 presents a divine equation that allows us to combine expectation and hope together: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” How do you add assurance to hope? By knowing the unchanging God who “exists and that... rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
As a Christian, my hope is my expectation, not because I’m good at hoping, but because God is good at promising. My God has given me promises and its impossible for him to change or to lie (Titus 1:2). Because of this, we can “hold fast to the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:17-20) and “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).
This is why it is said of Abraham, “In hope he believed against hope” and “no unbelief made him waver concerning the promised of God.” What produced such expectant hope? Because he was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised: (Rom 4:18-21).
I hope in promises made by an unchanging God, and therefore, my hope is 100% guaranteed.
Hoping in a Past Event
My future assurance is based on a past event: the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in whom “all the promises of God find their Yes” (2 Cor. 1:20). His resurrection ensures my resurrection. Because he lives, I have been “born again to a living hope...to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
This is why Paul says that, without the resurrection of Jesus, Christians should be considered the most pathetic and pitied humans on the planet. But, praise God, “In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:19-20).
This is the Christian hope. Nothing is more certain than something that has already happened.
Strengthened by the Enemy
Because my hope is sourced in an unchanging God and solidified by the past event of Christ’s resurrection, it’s untouchable. In fact, the very things that typically threaten hope end up strengthening it.
We would assume that suffering is the nemesis of hope, but just soak in the words of Romans 5:2-5: “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, 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.”
Suffering weans us from worldly hope. It reveals the fragile foundation of any hope rooted in this life and turns our gaze to the only hope that remains: Christ himself. And there’s zero chance that this hope will “put us to shame” because God has already poured out his love into our hearts.
Yes, suffering makes us “grown inwardly,” but because of our hope, we can simultaneously “wait eagerly” (Rom 8:23) and consider those sufferings “not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18).
Know the Hope You Have
Christian, this is your hope, whether you fully realize it or not. How often do we let the sufferings of this world fill our hearts with anxiety and depression? How often do we find ourselves drowning in a sea of uncertainty? This is why Paul prays in Ephesians 1:18 that you would have “the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.” Get to know this hope. It’s already yours.
Share the Hope You Have
The world around you is filled with hearts sickened by deferred hopes. So, be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). Is it obvious to others where your hope lies, or does your heart look as sick as theirs? This hope is yours. Get to know it and then share it with the world.
Because of Jesus, I can both expect and hope for the best.
Aaron Berry earned both his undergrad and MA in Bible at Bob Jones University and most recently completed his MDiv at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, MI, where He and his wife Hanna, currently live with their two children, Brooklyn and Joshua. He also serves as the Director of Recruitment at DBTS and is a pastoral assistant at Inter-City Baptist Church.
5/2/2020 07:31:15 am
AARON, IF THIS REACHES YOU WONDERFUL! i WANT TO THANK YOU FOR 10 Online Sins We're All Apparently Okay With
7/1/2020 09:22:14 am
Thanks for such a "hopefull" article. Great, and especially needed in these days.
7/1/2020 11:20:48 am
Thanks, Dr. Short! Truths greatly needed and, in my case, too easily forgotten.
11/17/2020 09:59:32 am
11/17/2020 10:08:56 am
11/9/2022 05:02:30 pm
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