That little word called ‘hope’

Published 5:59 pm Thursday, December 9, 2021

By Pat Throckmorton    As we lit the first candle of the Advent season, which represents hope, I was overcome with overwhelming compassion for those with so little hope. The opposite of hope is hopeless – how many times in your life have you felt stunned by your circumstances. Perhaps you were born with that proverbial silver spoon in your mouth that you escaped those desperate and despairing encounters.

Perhaps not.

Hope. Such a tiny, unassuming word, but what does it mean? Hope is the emotion of feeling expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. “I hope to find my grandmother’s wedding ring.” It wants something to happen or be the case. But how do you maintain hope when your situation is so despairing?

For Christians, hope is one of the three main elements of our character, with the other two being faith and love. Hope is an attitude and focus; faith is the foundation and content of God’s message, and love is your actions. When speaking to the evils in Corinth and realizing their lack of love and utilization of their spiritual gifts, the Apostle Paul said, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians, 13:137 NIV.

The Prophet Isaiah waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14b KJV. Matthew quoted from Isaiah in chapter 1, verse 23: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means ‘God with us.’” The Old Testament believers were
encouraged to wait for God hopefully and expectantly in times of trouble, expecting that He would turn things around. Looking forward with expectancy is the same as hope.

King David knew about hope. He knew that waiting for God to help was not easy, but the benefits were abundant. So many times, blessings cannot be received unless we go through the trial of waiting – no easy task! One resource tells it like this: while waiting, God lifted him out of his despair, set his feet on a rock, gave him a firm place to stand, and put a new song of praise in his mouth. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1 NIV. Read the entire Psalm 40 to realize doing God’s will sometimes means waiting patiently.

Hope is like a light shining in a dark place. Without hope, our world is bleak and dreary. Hope and trust are piggybacked together. Scripture warns us to trust in God alone. We should not entrust riches, idols, foreign powers, military might, princes, or other humans. God is the proper object of hope – in His steadfast love and his teaching and salvation.

Paul was an encourager to his protégé, Timothy. Paul begins his fatherly advice, warning Timothy about false teachers and urging him to hold on to his faith in Christ.

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:3-5 NIV.

We must allow the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love and for the future glory for which we hope. Be an encourager to those who hold little hope. Share with unbelievers the hope of salvation and eternal life. The Holy Spirit leads to hope, which births comfort and joy. We are to encourage each other with the knowledge of the resurrection.

To quote Francois Jacob, co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1965, “It is hope that gives life meaning. And hope is based on the prospect of being able one day to turn the actual world into a possible one that looks better.”

How do you transfer hope to another? Accept them for who they are and not for what they do. Express care through physical touch and tender words.

Tell them you love them and be sincere. Show your appreciation for them. Acknowledge them with your approval – not just in the big things but little things as well. Listen to them with your heart; being heard is analogous to being loved. Give people respect.

Jesus said this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NIV.
Your love can give hope to the world.

A longtime nurse, now retired, Pat Throckmorton writes columns about faith.