The Certainty of Hope

We are a hopeful people, aren't we? We hope for warmer weather (at least I do!). We hope to get well from sickness. We hope our babies sleep through the night. We hope to get pregnant, find a spouse, or get the job we are applying for. We hope for good grades, a glowing performance review, or that our favorite characters in TV shows will finally get together. We hope for family members to come to Christ, relationships to be mended, and our circumstances to turn around. We hope for a lot of things. And not all hopes are equal. Some have no lasting value (like our hopes in favorite characters), while others carry eternal implications (like our hopes for lost family members). But in the English language, we still use the same word for both--hope.

When my husband preached at our church a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned something that stuck with me. Hope is a recurring theme in the Bible. But it's not like we think of hope. Preaching on Philippians 1:18-26, Daniel said that Paul's hope was not wishful thinking, but confident expectation that God would do what he said he would do.

J.I. Packer has this to say about the Christian's hope:

In a word, hope: hope understood not in the weak sense of optimistic whistling in the dark, but in the strong sense of certainty about what is coming because God himself has promised it (J.I. Packer, Weakness is the Way: Life With Christ Our Strength, 92).

I've been thinking a lot about hope lately. One of my biggest hopes (and besetting fears) is that our little son would make it into this world alive and healthy. Holding on to that hope is hard for me now that I've gone through two pregnancy losses. I don't have a confident hope that all will be well because I've seen it not be well in my own body before. I wrestle daily between bursting expectation about holding his wrinkly newborn body in my arms and crushing fear that I won't get to hear his newborn cries. What I'm learning is that my hopes and fears are not what will carry me as I carry him. Hoping in my son's well being is not the hope Paul, Packer, or the whole of Scripture is talking about. It's not a hope in circumstances. For me, it's not a hope in counting kicks, hearing a heartbeat, or even holding him in my arms.

It's a better one.

When Job lost everything: his possessions, his children, even the support of his wife, he hoped in God. He worshiped him (Job 1:20-22). When the Hebrews joyfully accepted the loss of their property they trusted in God because they knew he was the better possession (Heb. 10:34). These saints expressed confident expectation that God would do what he said in their lives.

The same is true for my hope. While I have no guarantee that I will get every earthly thing I hope for, even a healthy baby boy come May, I do have full assurance that God will keep me to the end. Scripture is full of this very promise for those who are in Christ. We are hoping in an unseen, eternal reality that will never pass away, not in the shifting sands of circumstances--good or bad (2 Cor. 4:18).

Of course, I'm still hopeful that my precious son will make it into this world healthy. God delights in giving good gifts to his children, including precious children of our own. But regardless of the outcome of this pregnancy, I want to hope in the God who is holding everything together and who promises to do me good, not harm, all the days of my life. I want the unshakable hope that will carry me when everything crumbles around me or when I am tempted to forget him in the joy-filled days.

"My hope rests firm on Jesus Christ, he is my only plea."