The Persistence of Hope

About a month ago I wrote a blog post titled, The Persistence of Memory,” which was named after one of Salvador Dali‘s most famous paintings which he completed in August 1931 when he was 27. At the time he was married to his wife, Gala, and he was “penniless and outcast from the community which had inspired much of his art.” (Quote source here.) Obviously, over time he didn’t stay that way.

Yesterday I got to thinking about the subject of hope. One of America’s most famous poets, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), wrote a now famous poem on the subject of hope titled, Hope is the Thing with Feathers“:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all

And sweetest in the Gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet never in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me
(Source here.)

Hope . . . Vocabulary.com defines hope as follows:

“Hope” is something that you want to happen, like you hope to visit Paris this summer, or the feeling that good things will come. If you make it to the final round of a tournament, that gives you hope.

Hope can also be a verb that means “strive for or wish,” as in your hope to become a doctor someday. To hope is to want something to happen, but if instead you said that you intend to become a doctor, that suggests becoming a doctor is more of a goal than a dream. Hope, on the other hand, is more emotional. In fact, some scholars believe it’s linked in meaning to “hop,” in that someone who hopes “leaps in expectation.”

Definitions of hope include: (1) a general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled; (2) a specific instance of feeling hopeful; (3) grounds for feeling hopeful about the future. (Quote source here.)

GotQuestions.org gives us the biblical definition of hope:

Most people understand hope as wishful thinking, as in “I hope something will happen.” This is not what the Bible means by hope. The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” Hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown (Romans 8:24-25Hebrews 11:17). Hope is a fundamental component of the life of the righteous (Proverbs 23:18). Without hope, life loses its meaning (Lamentations 3:18Job 7:6) and in death there is no hope (Isaiah 38:18Job 17:15). The righteous who trust or put their hope in God will be helped (Psalm 28:7), and they will not be confounded, put to shame, or disappointed (Isaiah 49:23). The righteous, who have this trustful hope in God, have a general confidence in God’s protection and help (Jeremiah 29:11) and are free from fear and anxiety (Psalm 46:2-3).

The New Testament idea of hope is the recognition that in Christ is found the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises (Matthew 12:211 Peter 1:3). Christian hope is rooted in faith in the divine salvation in Christ (Galatians 5:5). Hope of Christians is brought into being through the presence of the promised Holy Spirit (Romans 8:24-25). It is the future hope of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6), the promises given to Israel (Acts 26:6-7), the redemption of the body and of the whole creation (Romans 8:23-25), eternal glory (Colossians 1:27), eternal life and the inheritance of the saints (Titus 3:5-7), the return of Christ (Titus 2:11-14), transformation into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2-3), the salvation of God (1 Timothy 4:10) or simply Christ Himself (1 Timothy 1:1).

The certainty of this blessed future is guaranteed through the indwelling of the Spirit (Romans 8:23-25), Christ in us (Colossians 1:27), and the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:26). Hope is produced by endurance through suffering (Romans 5:2-5) and is the inspiration behind endurance (1 Thessalonians 1:3Hebrews 6:11). Those who hope in Christ will see Christ exalted in life and in death (Philippians 1:20). Trustworthy promises from God give us hope (Hebrews 6:18-19), and we may boast in this hope (Hebrews 3:6) and exhibit great boldness in our faith (2 Corinthians 3:12). By contrast, those who do not place their trust in God are said to be without hope (Ephesians 2:121 Thessalonians 4:13).

Along with faith and love, hope is an enduring virtue of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 13:13), and love springs from hope (Colossians 1:4-5). Hope produces joy and peace in believers through the power of the Spirit (Romans 12:1215:13). Paul attributes his apostolic calling to the hope of eternal glory (Titus 1:1-2). Hope in the return of Christ is the basis for believers to purify themselves in this life (Titus 2:11-141 John 3:3). (Quote source here.)

GotQuestion.org also states the difference between faith and hope:

Faith and hope are distinct yet related. That there is a difference between faith and hope is evident in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Two of the three greatest gifts are faith and hope, listed separately. That faith and hope are related concepts is seen in Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for.”

Faith is a complete trust or confidence in something. Faith involves intellectual assent to a set of facts and trust in those facts. For example, we have faith in Jesus Christ. This means we completely trust Jesus for our eternal destiny. We give intellectual assent to the facts of His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, and we then trust in His death and resurrection for our salvation.

Biblical hope is built on faith. Hope is the earnest anticipation that comes with believing something good. Hope is a confident expectation that naturally stems from faith. Hope is a peaceful assurance that something that hasn’t happened yet will indeed happen. Hope must involve something that is as yet unseen: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” (Romans 8:24). Jesus’ return is our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)—we can’t see Him yet, but we know He’s coming, and we anticipate that event with joy.

Jesus said He is coming again (John 14:3). By faith, we trust Jesus’ words, and that leads to hope that we will one day be with Him forever. Jesus was resurrected from the dead, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). That is the basis for our faith. Then we have Jesus’ promise: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). That is the basis of our hope.

The relationship between faith and hope can be illustrated in the joy a child feels when his father tells him they are going to an amusement park tomorrow. The child believes that he will go to the amusement park, based on his father’s word—that is faith. At the same time, that belief within the child kindles an irrepressible joy—that is hope. The child’s natural trust in his father’s promise is the faith; the child’s squeals of delight and jumping in place are the expressions of the hope.

Faith and hope are complementary. Faith is grounded in the reality of the past; hope is looking to the reality of the future. Without faith, there is no hope, and without hope there is no true faith. Christians are people of faith and hope. We have “the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2). (Quote source here.)

In an article published on August 2, 2011, titled, How to Find Hope in Any Situation,” by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director for the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University, she writes:

The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Kenneth Hutcherson‘s (1952-2013) book, “Hope is Contagious: Trusting God in the Face of Any Obstacle,” (published by Zondervan).

When life is going well for you, it’s easy to feel hopeful. But when this fallen world brings trouble into your life, feelings of hopelessness can come in, too. Thankfully, the hope that God offers is much more than a feeling: It’s the reality of His presence with you. You can experience that hope in any situation–even if your health fails, you lose your job, your spouse leaves, or some other tragedy hits you. Here’s how to find hope in any situation:

Stop simply surviving and start thriving. Don’t let difficult circumstances stop you from making the most of each day you’re alive. Realize that even when times are tough, you can do much more than just endure your current situation. You can actually enjoy life to the fullest–even in the middle of the worst circumstances–when you remember that life if a gift from God and decide to embrace it. Ask God to help you notice His presence with you in every situation, and rejoice when you sense Him nearby. Pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind each day so you can have the positive attitudes you need to thrive no matter what is going on in your life.

Choose to trust. When something bad happens in your life, don’t respond by arguing with God or rebelling against Him. Instead, trust God to keep His promise to use all circumstances–including the bad ones–to accomplish good purposes in your life. Remember that God is perfect, so He can’t make any mistakes, and whatever He chooses to do is for a good purpose. If He has allowed something difficult to happen to you, there’s a reason.

Learn and grow from your struggles. God allows you to experience challenging circumstances so you can learn to love and trust Him in deeper ways, and so you can grow more mature, developing a strong character to become more like Jesus. Keep in mind that God is more interested in your lasting holiness than your temporary happiness, because holiness will help you learn to choose what’s best for you. Ask God to help you see your struggles from His perspective. Let your struggles teach you whatever God wants you to learn from them. As you deal with the difficulties in your life, stay focused on what matters most–eternal values–so you can grow into a stronger person in the process.

Resist temptations to sin. Don’t turn to sinful behaviors to try to escape the pain of the tough circumstances you experience; doing so will only make your pain worse. Instead, pray for the strength you need to resist temptation, and pour out your feelings to God. God will respond by giving you comfort that you can’t find from any other source.

Attract others to faith as they watch you. Other people are watching you as you deal with difficult situations. If you respond by being faithful to Jesus, they’ll be drawn to Him themselves because you’ll show them what real faith in action looks like, and that’s attractive. So rather than complaining about your struggles or compromising your values as you try to deal with them, invite Jesus to shine His light through your life, and reflect His character qualities so other people can see how a relationship with Him can help them when they face their own struggles.

Want what God wants for you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that God doesn’t care about you if He doesn’t give you whatever you ask Him for. Realize that God loves you so much that He gives you what you need, even when it’s not what you want. Keep in mind that, because of your limited perspective on life compared to God’s unlimited perspective, sometimes you ask God for something that seems good but can actually harm you. Trust in the fact that God knows what you need to have the life that brings you the greatest good. Ask God to bring your desires in line with His will for you.

Overcome fear. No matter what kind of situation you may find yourself facing, don’t be afraid, because God will always be with you and have your best interests in mind since He loves you. Whenever feelings of fear creep into your life, turn to God for the help you need to overcome them and successfully navigate your circumstances. Whenever you sense God calling you to do something that requires taking a risk, move forward without fear because God will empower you to do whatever He calls you to do.

Keep heaven in mind. Remember all that awaits you in heaven at the end of your life here on Earth. Let the anticipation of the wonderful experiences you’ll have in heaven motivate you to meet your current challenges with the hope, which will lead to the strength you’ll need to get through any situation. As you think about heaven, focus your mind on what truly matters and let distractions go so you can live life to the fullest right now.

Don’t give up. Whenever your sense of hope starts running out, ask God to renew you with a fresh dose of hope so you can continue to faithfully deal with the difficult situations that come your way. Be confident that at the right time, God will reward you for your faithfulness if you don’t give up your faith in the middle of challenging circumstances. Count on God to give you more hope whenever you ask Him for it.

The above was adapted from “Hope is Contagious: Trusting God in the Face of Any Obstacle,” by Dr. Ken Hutcherson (1952-2013), who was founder and senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church, a multicultural community of faith in the greater Seattle area. A former professional football player, he played for the Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers, and Dallas Cowboys. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Isaiah 40:28-31: Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength . . .

They will soar on wings like eagles . . .

They will run and not grow weary . . .

They will walk and not be faint . . . .

YouTube Video: “Good Fight” by Unspoken:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here