Hope is the neglected triplet between faith and love. In my church foyer, I hear conversations about faith and the sanctuary echoes with songs about love. But hope receives scant attention. When it is pushed to the front of the platform, it feels like a facsimile shaped to the tune of a Little Orphan Annie’s song. So, I should refine the first sentence here. Hope is not so much neglected, as it is misunderstood. And that’s regretful. If there is anything we need, it is a Biblical understanding of hope. Hospital wards, counselling rooms, business ventures, newly weds, congregations and nursing homes all need hope in unending measure. So, what is hope?
The dictionary paints hope as an attitude of expectation coupled with desire. It is defined as something we want to happen. A trip to Disneyland. A clean doctor’s report. A teenager returned home. Not only does hope revolve around something we want, but also we believe it will happen! We wrap ourselves in optimism. That may be the normal expression of hope but it quickly runs into problems. I wanted the Bluejays to win the World Series and I was convinced it would happen! The sting of hope disappointed runs deep. So is hope simply the random hit and miss of our own powerful wishes? Not according to the Scriptures.
Theologically, hope is linked to faith. We know that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” Since faith is the trust we place in God’s Word, Hand and Heart, it gives a foundation for hope. God is our reason for optimism! Whenever hope is detached from faith, it becomes simply a wish. There is much in my life I may want but if it falls outside the scope of God’s promise and plan, it remains a personal preference. Conversely, the faith we hold in the promise of God feeds a spirit of excited expectation. The Scriptures offer Abraham as a model of faith and hope. This patriarch was promised a great land and a huge family to populate it. But, he spent most of his days as a nomad staring at an empty cradle. There were times he almost settled for a diminished dream. “What about Eliezer as my heir?” Other times he tried to manufacture the promise on his own, “What about Ishmael as my heir?” Ultimately, he planted himself on God’s Word and in faith, “He hoped against hope.” (Rom. 4:18)
So what does that mean for us at the start of each day? Just this. Hope is the future tense of faith. Since we trust in God, can you imagine what tomorrow will look like? In the doctor’s office, church boardroom, maternity ward or new neighbourhood, our anticipation is less about our wishes or cheery demeanour. Our smiles are rooted in God. His love has taught us to trust Him. That trust opens the door to hope. Hope is the goose bumps faith creates when I think of God’s love for me.