Monday, April 20, 2020

Wishin’ and Hopin’ and Thinkin’ and Prayin’

Do you remember the song, “Wishin’ and ‘Hopin’”? Written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, it was first recorded by Dionne Warwick, and then turned into a Top 10 hit by Dusty Springfield in 1964. Even if you don’t recall it, I think we’ve all been doing lots of wishing and hoping in recent days.

During an early press update on the COVID-19 virus, a reporter challenged President Trump for his seemingly overly positive assessments, accusing him of offering “false hope.” The President responded by stating that while he did not want to be unrealistic, he understood most Americans were looking for hope in a very troubling time.

Like him or not, the President was right: We all look for hope, especially when days seem dark and dismal. And we have lots to be wishing and hoping about, even beyond the end of this pandemic. We all want health, for ourselves as well as our friends and loved ones. Many people have lost jobs, at least temporarily, and they’re hoping to return to gainful employment once things return to normal – whatever that might look like. The people who employ them also are eager to resume usual activities, hoping that will be sooner than later.

There are other important, although slightly less critical hopes and wishes. Students have been hoping for their schools to reopen, so sports could resume, proms could be conducted, and graduations might be held. For parents thrust into home schooling roles, they’re also looking forward to the day when they can shout, “Get up, Tommy (or Tonya). Time for school!” More than one mom or dad has muttered – perhaps very loudly, “If I had wanted to be a teacher, I would have studied to become one!” 

Then there are the more mundane matters, such as the hopes that despite everything, there will be pro and college football seasons in the fall. Without the thud of foot against ball, crunch of pads, or ecstatic cheers after a touchdown, can there really be a fall? Others are hoping for the day they can again go shopping, or go to see a movie, or dine at a restaurant.

But we’re not really sure about any of the above, are we? Our wishes are just wishes. Our hopes amount to little more than hope-so’s. As optimistic as we’d like to be, we can’t be sure until it happens. This is where everyday hope distances itself from the hope about which the Bible speaks with such certainty.

Biblical hope pertains to ironclad promises and assurances from God. Or as I like to define hope: “earnest expectation” or “confident assurance.” 

Romans 8:24 powerfully expresses it this way: “For in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Regardless of circumstances we encounter from one day to the next, as followers of Jesus Christ we have an unshakable hope anchored in our relationship with Him.

The progression of the virus has preoccupied our minds, but the Scriptures give us many examples of believers whose hope in the Lord enabled them to endure great adversity. Writing from a prison, with no likelihood of release, the apostle Paul could say, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ sill be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21).

Ultimately, biblical hope rests not in the fickle, unpredictable nature of temporal life, but in the earnest expectation of a glorious life to come that we can hardly imagine. “A faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2).

Perhaps, more than anything else, what the Lord wants us to gain from our current challenges is a certainty that no matter what happens, however long things persist, our future in Him is secure: “so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).

Do we have that certainty? Do we know, that we know, that we know we have it? Good questions to answer, especially in times like these. While we’re wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’, do we have the hope that transcends whatever we have to face?

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