Hope is a powerful factor. It motivates one to move forward and look ahead, even in the most extenuating of circumstances. It keeps one focused on a goal, no matter how discouraging the current results might be. It is the hope of eternal life that gets the downcast Christian out of bed in the morning to witness to his lost friend another time. But hope must become a habit if we are to reach our goals. Without it, we are destined for failure.
I have felt hopeless at numerous times in my life. It is a debilitating feeling, one which essentially shuts down my focus and paralyzes my ability to think clearly. It is a terrible sinking feeling that doesn’t necessarily hurt physically but emotionally and spiritually. Recently, I’ve felt that hopeless feeling creeping back into my life and once again gaining a foothold. A crushing disappointment coupled with the monotony of everyday life and the reality that I haven’t met my goals has left me overwhelmed, discouraged, and defeated. To be completely honest, there are days when I feel like I don’t have a lot to look forward to; and I’m left wondering what God’s plan is.
As much as hope is anchored in something to look forward to, it is also a choice. There will be times in this life where we don’t have a lot to look forward to. But we have a choice in how we react. We can choose to be hopeless by dwelling on the problems or to be hopeful by turning our eyes to Christ and the promises of His Word. This world and everything in it are temporary—even our bodies! But we have hope that we will spend an eternity in Heaven where there is no pain, sorrow, or death (Rev. 21:4).
In I Thessalonians 4:13, Paul gives us a powerful reminder about hope, even in the face of death: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” I experienced this a little over a year ago when my grandmother passed away. It was a painful time for my family because she was no longer physically with us. But, for the Christian, death is only a temporary separation. While we were sad to see her go, we rejoiced that she was no longer in pain and that she was reunited with my grandfather. Most of all, we rejoiced in the very real hope that we will one day see her again.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously said that “God is dead.” Addressing that in his book God and Government, Chuck Colson writes, “God is dead not because He doesn’t exist, but because we live, play, procreate, govern, and die as though He doesn’t.” I was so convicted when I read this. I believe that a large majority of unbelievers have rejected God not because they believe He doesn’t exist but because so many Christians live lives without hope. Our lack of hope can actually limit God, just as it did when Jesus visited his hometown of Nazareth in Matthew 13:58: “And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” I never want it to be said of me that God refused to do a great work because I didn’t believe and hope in Him.
Ultimately, for the Christian, hope is an unshakable belief that God is faithful to His promises. He has promised to never leave us (Heb. 13:5), to work all things for our good (Rom. 8:28), and that any suffering we face here is temporary in light of eternity to come (2 Cor. 4:17). Romans 4:18 tells us that Abraham “against hope believed in hope.” God had promised Abraham a son and that he would be the father of many nations. And yet, the reality was that he and Sarah were far past the age to have children. But Abraham did not lose hope because God always keeps His promises.
It was hope in a faithful and loving God that saw Corrie ten Boom through her darkest days at the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany and led her to later write The Hiding Place to encourage Christians around the world. It was hope that kept Louis Zamperini alive for 47 days adrift at sea and then over two years in a Japanese POW camp. It was hope that led five men to give their lives so that the Auca Indians might come to faith in Christ.
In a letter to a friend in the hospital, C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” So in 2022, make hope a habit. Don’t give up on the goals God has given you. Focus on the prize, not the current results. Trust the process. Keep sharing the hope within you (1 Peter 3:15). As Christians, we have so much to look forward to, both in this life and the next.