Hope is defined as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best; to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to believe, desire, or trust.”

Hope is a very commonly used and understood word. I’m sure nothing in that definition was shocking or revealing, and I seriously doubt anyone reading that definition went “OH, that’s what hope is…I finally get it!”. We get what hope means. We have all experienced the feeling of hope before, many times on a daily basis. 

We hope for a good grade in school after a big test we studied for. We hope for a job we want. We hope a certain person will notice us. As kids we hope our parents don’t find out what we did. There’s many times we experience the feeling of hope in life.

Those examples are the kind of hope that the first part of the definition talks about…’the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best, and to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence’.

Then there’s the other kind of hope.

We hope that the person we have chosen to love will love us back. We hope that our children make wise decisions in their life so they can avoid unnecessary hurt and pain. We hope that we don’t lose our job or face financial struggles that are so daunting that we can’t pay our bills. As Followers of Christ we place our hope in God as we walk through life.

These are examples of the second half of the definition of hope. ‘To believe, desire, or trust’. This is the kind of hope that pertains to things that we have no control over.

The first examples we don’t have full control over either, but we do have some. If we want a good grade on a test, we can control that by studying hard. Then our hope for a good grade will be based on the fact that we worked hard and we are hoping for a good outcome from that hard work. We can’t always control if we get hired for a job, but we have control over how we present ourselves and prepare for the interview, which can help our chances. If we want someone to notice us, we can take steps to ensure they notice us. They might not end up liking us, but we can make them at least notice us. And we do have control over our own actions, so if we want to do something but know it will upset mom and dad, then we can choose to not do it. It’s only if we choose to do it that we then have to hope they don’t find out. So we do have some control there.

However, we have no control over if the person we chose to love will love us back. We can show them love and do all we can to let them know we love them, but we have zero control over their choice to love us our not. We can teach our kids what is right and what is wrong, but at the end of the day they make their own choices. We can be there for them and continue to try to teach them, but we can’t control their actions. We can work hard or do all we can to be financially smart, but sometimes life happens in such a way that no matter how hard we worked or tried to be smart financially, we end up going through daunting financial struggles.

This kind of hope is much more difficult to hold onto than the first kind of hope. It’s more difficult to hold onto because we have no control over it, because there is usually a lot more emotion involved (which also means the chance for more pain), and because it can affect our life in a much bigger way.

If I get a bad grade on a test, I can work harder for the next test. If I don’t get the job, I can keep looking and apply at other places that have the same/similar job. If someone doesn’t even notice me, then it’s safe to say our relationship wasn’t that strong to begin with. And while I’m sad, I will be able to move on. There’s disappointment in all of these, but the disappointment can be minimal and our hope can carry us on to what’s next.

But giving someone your love and then being rejected, that’s extremely difficult to recover from. Watching our kids hurt themselves by bad choices and not being able to do anything about it, that’s painful. Losing a job or not being able to pay bills carries with it a feeling of failure and humiliation that isn’t easily shaken off. It’s not just disappointment that comes, but rather a losing of our hope. It’s not minimal. It’s devastating. And with that devastation comes the feeling of hopelessness, which makes us question and wonder what is next.

As I said earlier, we have no control over these things. We can’t keep them from happening, regardless of how much we hope they don’t happen. But while that truth seems to simply be piling on even more hopelessness, I want to say that it’s a truth that can also begin to recover our hope, even in the midst of the pain and hopelessness.

The fourth example I gave that the second half of the definition pertains to was “As Followers of Christ we place our hope in God as we walk through life.” We have no control over God, but we can find hope in the fact that he is in full control of everything in this world. Even the things we don’t understand, or the things he allows into our lives that are so difficult that at times we can hardly move from the weight of it all. We have no control over those things happening, but God does. And as Followers of Christ, we can rest and find hope in knowing that if we continue to follow where God leads, he will be with us through all of life’s worst moments.

Truth is, we were never meant to handle this life alone. God created us to be in relationship with him. Sin messed that up, but through Christ’s sacrifice it can be restored. And while we still deal with the ugly effects of sin, we can also have the kind of relationship where we walk with Christ through this life.

One of the most influential verses in my life is Psalm 46:10. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” In the NASB translation it says “Cease striving and know that I am God…”. Be still. Cease striving. I love the picture that paints. I love that it reminds me that I am not in control, and I need to stop spinning my wheels trying to be in control or fix everything on my own. What I need to do is to just be still, cease striving, and know that he is God. I’m not God, he is. I’m not in control, he is. I can’t handle life’s hardest circumstances on my own, he can. I don’t need to try to deal with everything on my own, I simply need to believe and trust in the one who is in control.

Believe and trust is the definition of hope. So when I’m trusting and believing in God, I’m hoping. When I’m in the middle of life’s most difficult circumstances, if I simply hold onto the trust and belief that God is in control and has a plan, then I’m holding onto hope. My hope may be wavering and not all that strong at the moment, but as long as I cling to God and trust in him, nothing will ever be completely hopeless.

May we hold onto the trust and belief that God is in control, even in the midst of life’s darkest and most difficult circumstances. And may we realize that even when things seem hopeless, when we hold onto God we are holding onto hope.