Insufficient Hope

Written by Timothy Schaser

In two very different situations last year I used the word “hope”.

The first time was a fleeting thought on my way to work on a Friday morning: “I hope someone brought donuts in today.”

The second time was during one of the most stressful nights of my life: “I hope the test results don’t show anything serious.”

Hope is an interesting word. You can use it in the smallest moment, or a life-changing moment, or anything in between. It is as widely used in secular terms as in religious terms. And that’s part of the problem with it. When you think about it, what does saying “I hope” really mean?

Hope needs a base. To a Christian, hope is faith’s partner. We hope because we have faith in who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Without faith, we would have no hope. When we tell our friends “I hope you’re doing well” or when we tell ourselves “I hope I can make it to class on time” do we really mean what we’re saying when we simply “hope”? I know that a lot of times I do not.

When your hope has no base, often times your sinful nature will choose the selfish route. Why was I hoping for non-serious test results? The selfish answer was that I didn’t want to deal with the physical, emotional, or financial stress that the worst outcome could bring. Why was I hoping for someone to bring donuts in to work? Selfishly, it was because I had forgotten to eat breakfast. In both cases, the root of my hope was in fear and doubt (and hunger). And while everything ended up working out, it was eye-opening to look back and see how a small word can reveal a faltering step in my faith life.

So what can be done? How do we hope for the right reasons? How do we show that in our daily conversations? What are the right reasons to hope? Of course, God’s Word has the answers:

“Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)

“For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.” (Psalm 71:5)

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19)

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Simply put, our hope should be in God. He put the weight of our sins on Jesus, who lived perfectly so that even though we are all fatally flawed, we are also eternally saved through Him. It means that we should not hope for a specific outcome to what we may selfishly want, but instead we should place our trust in God, who guides our lives every step of the way. It’s an age-old lesson, but one that we always need to be reminded of.

Since I’m forgetful, I’ve been trying to put more meaning into my daily conversations regarding hope. You can easily replace “hope” with better language. We can again turn to God’s Word for guidance:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15)

Try this next time you catch yourself using the word “hope”. Replace it with something similar to the phrase “Lord-willing”. You may find, like I am, that it has the following results:

It effectively turns what you are saying into a prayer. When I say “Lord-willing the test results show nothing serious,” I am putting my cares in the hands of God knowing that ultimately he has a plan no matter what the results are.

It makes you stop and think about what you are saying. I could say “Lord-willing someone bring in donuts to work today,” or I could say “Lord, help me remember to have breakfast tomorrow before I leave.” Sometimes the things we hope for end up being things we realize we don’t need! (Like hoping for the Vikings to win a Superbowl..)

It can act as a witnessing tool to others. If people hear you say something along the lines of: “I’ve been falling behind with my school and work schedule, Lord-willing I can get through it” it may lead to an opportunity to share your faith, or help build up the faith of someone who is struggling.

It might be a little awkward to try at first, but it really makes you take stock in what you say and how it relates to you or others from Christ’s perspective.

It’s easy to forget why we’re here on earth and what we should be doing. That’s a different topic for a much longer article. Short answer: Remain rooted in Christ. Keep Him in your small, insignificant moments and your large, life-changing moments. When we try to control our lives by following our own selfish hopes, or even just forgetting what our hope is based upon, we fail time and time again. We don’t need to waste time trying to think of all of the ways we can change our circumstances or improve our lives. It’s all out of our hands. And thank God for that. It bears repeating:

“For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.” (Psalm 71:5)