Hope isn’t really a happy emotion. Hope is not necessarily a giddy, bubbly, effervescent, here-and-now emotion. It’s something much more complex, a response firmly based in the certainty of an unseen future. The dictionary defines hope as expecting with confidence. The verb expecting clearly indicates the outcome is in the future. Because the outcome lies in the future, it is not visible in the present.
Romans 8:24 says, “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” Hope is expecting with confidence something you can’t see yet. It’s a bit like the explanation of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Hope, then, is not a reaction based upon an experienced present but a response based upon an expected future. In this way, hope is like delayed gratification. You may not be experiencing in the present what you want, but you respond to those circumstances based upon what you expect to come to pass in the future. You expect to experience gratification, understanding it’s not going to come instantly but rather at some point in the future. You are willing to wait because you expect with confidence that waiting will prove beneficial. In the same way, when things aren’t going the way you want, you have to be willing to hope.
Hope, like delayed gratification, is a mature response to life. Listen to the progression, the maturation process:
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. ~Romans 5:3-5
In some ways, hope has its most important work as a response to problems and struggles. Hope is the watchword of Old Testament people like Job and Jeremiah, and of David. Each of them experienced hope in the most profound way during times of great distress and personal turmoil.
It is hope, perhaps, most of all, that anchors you deep into the positive and allows you to weather times of drought and storm.
The Book of Job is one of unremitting suffering. God allows Satan to remove from Job all of the things in this life you would normally ascribe to being happy: wealth, possessions, and family. In the span of a single day, all of that is wiped out. What is Job’s response to this utter destruction of his livelihood and his children?
According to Job 1:20-21, he worshiped and praised God, saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” This is an amazing, mature response to calamity!
The Book of Jeremiah is one of calamity and destruction. It outlines the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians. Jeremiah prophesied about this destruction. He repeatedly tries to alert the people and various kings to the coming catastrophe, but to no avail. It is a book filled with despair and destruction. Yet, it is also a book of hope and future, as Jeremiah 29:11 (my theme verse) says: ” ‘For I now the plans I have for you,’ declaresthe Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” Even in the midst of destruction, God was already promising His future restoration to Jeremiah.
Jeremiah goes on to write the Book of Lamentations, a poetic recitation of the destruction of Jerusalem. Do you remember the verses I mentioned earlier from Lamentations? “I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:20-22). Jeremiah could look around him, in the face of a vast array of destruction, and have hope. so, what was Jeremiah hoping for?
David was annointed by God to be the king of Israel. When you think of a king, you probably think of palaces and power, feasting and fealty. That’s not exactly what David experienced. When God chose David to be king, there was already a king in Israel named Saul. Saul, needless to say, wasn’t thrilled about the change in leadership. His response? He set out to hunt David down and kill him. This failed, of course, and David was eventually declared king over Israel. It lasted a little while; long enough for his own sons to grow and rise up against him.
David spent a great deal of his time hiding out, running from enemies, and dodging assassination attempts. Being persecuted in this way could have caused David to be a very pessimistic person. Yet, David writes beautifully of his hope in the psalms: May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and diswgrace. But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more” (Psalm 71:13-14).
David, Jeremiah, and Job all chose to hope for God to provide a positive future.
Hope is not a rejection of your present circumstance. On the contrary, it is an acceptance of it. For example, this is what is said of Abraham, concerning God’s promise that he would have a child in his old age: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead” (Romans 4:18-19).
I really like that verse.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. Without weakening his faith, he faced the rality of his situation and still chose hope. Again, hope is not a rejection of your present circumstances. Paradoxically, as God often works, hope is strengthened in its quality by your present, hopeless circumstances. After all, if the outcome was something you could see or already had, it wouldn’t be hope, would it?
SOURCE: Chapter 11, “The Role of Hope in Being Happy,” in Happy for the Rest of Your Life by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc.