What is Hope?
The hope that the Bible speaks of is no empty wish or attempt at positive thinking. Who—not what—we put our hope in is what makes all the difference.
by Patricia Raybon
It’s hard to imagine, but “hope” wasn’t always considered a good thing. In the ancient world, poets and writers dismissed the concept as a cruel joke of the gods. To them, it was a vice that lured gullible people to believe in a better future, only to let them down.
Hope was just another word for disappointment—a kind of glitter, according to the Greek poet Euripides, that “beckons many men to their undoing.” Generations later, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called hope “the evil of evils” because “it prolongs men’s torment.”
In our world, the word carries a more positive attitude. But even in the church, when believers speak it, the sentiment is often expressed as a wish. So if one asks, “Will Jesus heal me?” the “hopeful” answer is, “I hope so—but I’m not sure.”
In the Bible, however, the prophet Zechariah challenged this false thinking. “Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope,” he urges. “This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you” (Zech. 9:12).
Talk about positive! Rather than believe hope is evil or just a wish, we are instructed to come back to our place of security—to the God who is our hope of safety, deliverance, healing, and peace.
Hope is certain. With this view, when we speak of “hope in God,” we rise above our doubts and questions to declare our absolute understanding that He will do what He promises. Moreover, what God promises, He has already done. As Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). To hope in Him shows that we accept and receive what He has already accomplished.
Reliance upon our fellow man might leave us disappointed, but hope in God can be reclaimed as a phrase of absolute confidence. The Lord intends us to know, indeed, that hope is power—when it is in Him. While we can’t deliver ourselves, we hope in our God who can. And as we do, He restores all we’ve lost in our battles—perhaps not in this life, but certainly in the one to come.
Hope is precious because it grows in adversity. We rejoice in tribulation, writes the apostle Paul, because it produces “perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). Moreover, “hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).
So go ahead and praise the Lord today for these promises—ample mercies for every woe. And that woe is never wasted because of what it produces. It confirms that hope in God, far from being a vice, is a gift and a grace. It reflects our character and confirms our toughness.
And that’s more than good. It’s divine.