Material things come and go, as we’ve all discovered. We buy a new shirt, dress, car or smartphone, and before we know it is worn out, broken, or outdated because of advancing technology. Unable to rely on tangible “stuff,” we find the most valuable “commodities” are intangible, not things you can store in a closet, or display on a table or in a driveway.
The so-called “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, cites three such things: Faith, Hope, and Love. The passage declares “the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13), and that says volumes. But there’s much we can also say about hope.
Many times I’ve felt tempted to shrug in resignation, “It’s hopeless.” I suspect that’s true for all of us. The daily news is bad enough, but when circumstances invading our personal lives appear beyond resolution, it’s even worse.
It might be a miserable job situation: We hate it, but can’t afford to quit, and there’s no other option. Or a bad marriage: Those vows exchanged, “for better or worse”? For some couples, there’s been a lot more of the worse than the better. And I have several of my friends confronting advanced stages of cancer, forced to come to grips with their mortality that might arrive sooner than later.
Faced with such situations, it’s easy to lose hope and fall into despair. Even the Bible acknowledges, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). Too often, the best our world can offer is “hope so,” as in, “So, you think tomorrow’s weather will be nice for the picnic?” “Hope so.” Or, “Do you think the Jackals will win their game tonight?” “Hope so.” Or, “Are you confident Aunt Bessie’s surgery will go okay?” “Hope so.”
When reduced to “hope so,” we find ourselves clinging to wishful thinking. But as days, weeks and months pass without realizing the outcome we desire, that deferred hope can indeed make our hearts sick, as the passage declares. So where do we turn? What can we do?
The best advice is to turn to God. He should be our first resort, not the last. Because biblical hope isn’t a “maybe, hope-so, I wish” pursuit. It’s an earnest expectation, confident assurance based on what the Lord promises in His Word. The apostle Paul said as much when he wrote, "according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death" (Philippians 1:20).
When we have absolute trust in someone, we don’t have to take a hope-so attitude toward a promise they’ve made. If they say they will meet us at a specific time and place, they’ll be there. If we receive the assurance they will do some important thing we need done, they will do it.
Many years ago, I was at my grandfather’s house when a toy of mine got broken. Can’t recall now what it was, or how it became damaged. I asked if he could fix it, and Grandpop – ever the handyman (unlike his grandson) – promised he would. The job wasn’t as simple as he initially thought, but he stayed with it until my bauble was returned to working order. God’s like that, only multiplied millions of times over.
We experience the trials and tribulations of life, and if someone tells us, “This too shall pass,” we want to slug them. But even in our most dire moments, we can turn to the Lord with hope – not just “hope so” – assured He will somehow work things out, even when they seem impossible.
Not long before His earthly ministry came to an end and was ushered to the cross to pay a debt He didn’t owe, Jesus offered this consolation to His followers: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We can embrace that promise even today, with genuine hope.