We know God can do anything. So how do you react when He doesn’t do something that you beg him to? When your loved one isn’t healed? When your heartbreak feels unbearable and then something else piles on top of that? When you just don’t know how to go on, yet you have to anyway?
I’ve been going through a rough patch emotionally, especially over the past few weeks but really for a few months now. And I feel like God has thrown me some songs as “lifelines” in this time. First it was “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe and more recently it was “Even If” by MercyMe.
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I didn’t much want to sing this when it popped into my head. Actually, I couldn’t at first since all I remembered was the “But even if you don’t” line. But I looked the song up, grasping for some hope to anchor my soul, and after playing through it a few times I could breath and pray again. I’ll admit, though, that there was still a part of me crying out, “Why?” when I thought about Him choosing not to take away the sorrow and hurt. And it’s okay to do that. As my counselor said, God is big enough to handle it when His kids are frustrated with Him.
Hope is one of the key things that gets us through the times when we’re frustrated with God and don’t understand what He’s doing. And it’s something I don’t think we talk about enough. Paul tells us “faith, hope and love remain” (1 Cor. 13:13, WEB). They’re all three virtues that aren’t going away, but we talk about faith and love a whole lot more than hope. Which is a shame, because hope is something that’s very much needed in this world.
Certainty Of Hope
There really isn’t a Hebrew word that exactly corresponds to “hope” as an “expectation of some good thing.” Rather, there are 15 different words translated hope in the Old Testament (Easton’s Bible Dictionary). We won’t look at all of them, but I do want to give you a sample:
- Tiqvah (H8615) — cord, hope, expectation
- Yachal (H3176) — wait, tarry, hope, expect
- Baach (H982/983) — trust, security, confidence
- Miqveh (H4723) — hope, collection, yarn, pool
There is a sense of waiting expectantly contained in these words, but there’s also a certainty to them. They speak of hope as something you can tie yourself to, place confidence in, and collect like water in a pool.
Israel, hope in Yahweh, for with Yahweh there is loving kindness. With him is abundant redemption. (Ps. 130:7, WEB)
A Confident Expectation
God is the one who supplies the certainty behind His people’s hopes. He is “the God of hope” (Rom. 15:13) and He gives clarity about the sort of hopefulness He offers through “the Lord Jesus Christ our hope” (1 Tim. 1:1). To have hope as a Christian, you have to get to know the God who supplies that hope.
The Greek word for hope is fairly straight-forward. Elpis (G1680) means an expectation of something, usually positive. In the Christian sense, it’s the “joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation” (Thayer’s). This type of hope is something people can’t have without God (Eph. 2:12). It’s connected to our calling and salvation, and to the resurrection and eternal life.
For we were saved in hope, but hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for that which he sees? But if we hope for that which we don’t see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom. 8:24-25, WEB)
We’re Not Miserable
At its core, our hope as Christians is in something beyond this life. That doesn’t mean we’re never hopeful about things on this earth, but ultimately our hope is fueled by God’s promises of future good. We need hope for today and tomorrow here on earth, but by itself that’s not enough.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Cor. 15:19, KJV)
Christianity without the resurrection would be a hopeless religion. Because no matter how many good things happen in our lives here on earth people still die. And we need hope for beyond that — hope for ourselves to live again and hope for the loved ones we’ve lost. The Father has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3, LEB). Jesus’ resurrection gives us proof that He’ll also raise us and the people we love from the dead and that He’ll give eternal life to those who believe.
Hope Won’t Disappoint
Hope comforts us and helps us develop the strength of character needed to keep going forward. Like faith, it’s closely connected with endurance. We keep moving forward in faith that God is good and hope that good things are coming. And that’s something we can have confidence in because we know He loves us.
Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom. 5:1-5, WEB)
Being hopeful means we trust God is going to bring things to a good end even if things are bad right now. We have a confident expectation of good outcomes, often in this life and most assuredly in the next.
I started writing this post the day after my cat ran away and finished it the day he came home 9 days later. What a beautiful demonstration of God working in the “little things” to show us He can be trusted to fulfill our hope in the big things as well.
I also know this post isn’t enough to fully answer the “What do you do when …” questions posed in the opening sentences. Questions like “Why does God allow ___” (fill in the blank) are among the toughest in Christianity. If that’s something you’re wrestling with, I recommend the book Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey. It’s a very good book and I know several people who it has helped get through some of the most heartbreaking times in their lives.