It does seem that we are wired for hope because we do it so persistently. Every couple that gets married hopes their marriage will be terrific, despite the fact that a high percentage of marriages end in divorce and of those that survive an even higher percentage would have to be characterized as less than terrific. When we have children we hope that they will be exceptional, despite the obvious fact that everyone hopes their kids will be exceptional and if they were all exceptional they wouldn’t be…well…exceptional. They’d merely be average. We go on a new diet in hopes that this time it will be different. This time, surely, we will succeed and hit that goal of losing the identified number of offending pounds. Not only will we lose that unwanted weight but we will miraculously succeed in keeping it off. Yeah, this time it will be different. We hope.
Whatever the case, it is apparent that hope is essential for human life. It is what keeps us going when life is hard, it keeps our minds at ease, and it is essential to most endeavors in life. The student who enrolls in college does so with the hope that he or she will somehow be able to pay for it, eventually graduate, and that it will make some positive difference in his or her adult life. If that student does not have hope of all those things he or she will never set foot in a college classroom. The person who begins a new exercise program does so in the hope that he or she will be able to stick with it and that it will make a difference. Without hope the exercise program is nothing more than empty torture, so why do it? The people who plant a new church hope that it will flourish and will be used by God. Every new endeavor begins with hope, no matter what it is. It starts with the belief that whatever it is, the thing can be done and that when it is accomplished it will bring benefit. Nothing ever begins without that hope. That is true of our collective endeavors and it is true of our individual efforts to make our way through this life. Studies show that an absence of hope can alter the future and shape outcomes in a negative way. Some findings also indicate without having a somewhat unrealistic optimism humans would be at least mildly depressed continually.
I don’t think it’s an accident that Romans 15:13 speaks of our Lord as “the God of hope.” Contrary to those who believe that evolutionary biology is the source of hope, the Scriptures tell us that it is God who has enabled us to hope. Psalm 65:5 says God is “the hope of all the ends of the earth.” Ultimately all hope is derived from God. Hope is also central to our relationship with God. Hebrews 11:1 says, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Since faith is the critical point of a relationship with God and faith is essentially hope, hope obviously plays a vital role. Jeremiah 14:22 says to God “our hope is in you.” Isaiah 40:31 says “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” It’s no secret to anyone that I love Hebrews 6:13, which says “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul.” Ultimately the anchor, the ground of our very lives, is hope.
But in what do we hope? Surely as I go through the normal course of life I will hope a lot of different things. I hope that headache I have is not caused by a tumor. When I set out to play tennis yesterday with my wife after not playing since last fall I hoped I wouldn’t hurt myself and I hoped I would at least be able to hit the ball over the net with a modicum of consistency. I hope the items on my “to do” list that have deadlines attached to them will get finished on time. I hope the NFL and the players can figure out how to carve up a $9 billion pie soon so they can play football when September rolls around. I hope the sun will shine today. We hope many things. Some of those hopes will be fulfilled, some will not.
At the end of the day the statement in Jeremiah 14:22 seems to be most crucial. “Our hope is in you.” It is fine to hope that everything will go the way I want, but we all know that won’t always happen. Life is going to hold disappointment for all of us. In the end there is only one hope that will never disappoint. That hope is that God is there and he is faithful to his promises. He does love us and will continue to do so. He will seek our best. He will be with us and strengthen us. He will hear our prayers. He has forgiven us, and will resurrect us to eternal life because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. He will work our good out in every circumstance in life. Somehow he will redeem every single thing that happens to us. Not everything that happens in our lives will be good in and of itself, but God will use it to produce some good for us. That is what we should put our hope in.
It seems to me this is a crucial point. I will hope that things happen the way I desire them to in this world. That’s how we’re wired. That’s good, and as pointed out earlier it is what enables me to attempt new endeavors. But that is not my ultimate hope. If I put my hope in my endeavors always succeeding or in my circumstances turning out the way I desire I am going to experience repeated disappointment. That’s the reality of this life. If I experience enough disappointment I will at some point begin to lose…hope. When I start losing hope I will also start down the slope toward cynicism and bitterness. So yes, I should live full of hope, but must always be clear that my hope really isn’t in my endeavors being successful or my desires being fulfilled. I hope they will be, but the hope that anchors my soul is the hope that God will fulfill all of his promises. That is a hope I can count on.
I believe Christians should be the most hopeful of people. We, of all people, should be the most optimistic. I have been characterized as somewhat pessimistic. I may seem that way, but the reality is that my pessimistic outside is a mere cover for an optimistic heart that is trying to keep from being disappointed. We have hope. Not a Pollyanna hope that only sees the world through absurdly rose colored glasses, but a nitty-gritty hope that God will always lead us in his triumph. So we can face life at all times with confidence and optimism, knowing that regardless of the outcome, our God is still there and still faithful.