-Jennifer N. Pearson
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” Romans 15:13
What does the word hope mean to you? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “hope” in the verb sense means “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true”, “to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment”, “or to expect with confidence: TRUST”. Used as a noun, “hope” can be defined as “desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment”, “someone or something on which hopes are centered”, or “something desired or hoped for”.
We can hope for something to happen in a certain way. We can hope to get the promotion; hope to get an A on our exam; hope they like their gift, hope for the best outcome, etc.
Or we can place our hopes in something that is to come. Something that we are expecting, waiting for, and anticipating.
Hope is what keeps us persevering because what we are waiting for motivates us and strengthens us to keep pushing through the challenges, hardships, and adversities.
I read an odd but interesting article from the World of Work Project titled “Drowning Rats Psychology Experiment: “Resilience and the Power of Hope” (https://worldofwork.io/2019/07/drowning-rats-psychology-experiments/).
I know, I know –weird but super interesting I promise. Just keep on reading. The study used domesticated and wild rats separately to test the correlation with rats being able to survive in water for longer than a couple of minutes. The overall conclusion was that “Despite their ferocity, fitness and swimming ability, not one of the 34 wild rats survived more than a few minutes.”.
But shockingly, there was one thing that was added to the test that drastically changed the results –one of which actually had nothing to do with the ability of the rats. The element introduced was HOPE. As the rats were placed in the water and before they started to drown, the people would pick them up, hold them for a bit, allow them time to recover, and then place them back into the bucket of water. This time they swam much longer than the first time. Curt concludes by saying that “the rats quickly learn that the situation is not actually hopeless” and that “after elimination of hopelessness the rats do not die.”
Obviously, rats and humans are vastly different, but the similarity is that hope increases our ability to persevere.
Throughout the Old Testament, Israel waited for Messiah. The One who would come and rescue them from their bondage.
Isaiah prophesies about this in chapter 9:6-7:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
The people of the Old Testament spent years waiting on the coming Messiah to make all things right –all things new. And just because they died without seeing the fulfillment on earth, the evidence that they were given is what guided them. This is what they hoped for and waited on. The people waited with expectancy, they anticipated His arrival, and they persevered because what had been promised and prophesied to them was worth waiting on, trusting in, and hoping for. The promise and evidence of the coming King brought them hope. Yet they would die without ever witnessing the promise.
Throughout history, I would imagine that for many who heard the prophecies and witnessed the life of Jesus and His crucifixion on the cross, all hope seemed lost. The Messiah didn't come as a King but instead as a baby in a manger whose body would eventually hang lifeless on a cross.
Where was the mighty warrior who would bring about restoration? Some turned away, some doubted, but many persevered. They stayed the path and endured because there is a big difference between those who are just waiting for something in comparison to those who wait in hope.
Hope produces security and trust in what it is that we are anticipating. Just like the rats, their hope did not make the humans rescue them. Their hope simply helped them to endure the unknown, unexpected, and unsatisfactory conditions that they were in until their rescue came. The hope that came from past evidence changed their focus.
You see, we look to the past to see the promise, we wait and persevere in the present because of our hope for the future.
The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus brought forth HOPE for all who would believe, trust, and accept Him and their Lord and Savior. Yet so often we have placed our hope in temporary, earthly things which results in sadness and disappointment.
We hope for better relationships that will help us to feel less lonely. And while good relationships are a gift to our lives, we cannot place our hopes in them. These relationships are made up of flawed sinful humans that even with the best heart and intentions will somehow let us down and disappoint us.
We hope for a better job or a promotion that will place us in a better situation. Yes, a promotion helps and a job that we are more fulfilled in brings a certain level of happiness. However, the company can close, the position may no longer be needed, or maybe the promotion only encouraged more spending. Which reveals that this will never offer complete security.
We hope for good news from the doctor. We hope that the disease and sickness have finally been cured and we are healed. This one is near and dear to my heart because of so many around me. I have hoped for this, expected it, and waited for it. There have been times when the test results were just what we had hoped for and others when they were drastically different. We have celebrated the healing and grieved the sickness. I am sure you have experienced these same moments to some degree.
No, it’s not wrong to hope for good news, we must just remember that this is not where we place our hope. Because for all who live on this earth, death is inevitable. But even in death, there is Hope. John 11:25-26 Jesus says,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Our hope in Christ may not make our current struggles of life disappear but it offers us the strength to endure even when all hope seems lost because we have hope that our Rescuer and Redeemer is coming for us.
The truth is that Christ is the only One that we can place our hope in, the only one that we can trust completely, the only thing that we can anticipate, expect, and wait on that will NEVER disappoint us. The God of hope fills us with joy and peace as we trust in who He is, and it is because of our faith in Him that the Holy Spirit brings forth hope. Not hope in the broken world that we live in, and the disappointing circumstances that come with it. But instead as Christians, we have Hope because of the promise of eternity with Christ.
This promise produces hope. And because of this hope, we set our eyes on Jesus in the hardest moments of life, and we trust in His goodness.
And “we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
My challenge for all of us is this:
As we walk into this Christmas season, let us take the time to evaluate the people or things that we have placed our hope in. And if our answer is anything other than Jesus, may we refocus and set our eyes on Messiah, the TRUE HOPE for all who receive Him.