There once were two boys who were identical twins with only one difference—one was a hope-filled optimist and the other a hopeless pessimist. Their parents were worried about the extremes of optimism and pessimism in the boys so they took them to see a psychologist. The psychologist suggested a plan that he thought might help. The plan was to acquire two large rooms then fill one room with all the toys a boy could want and the other room with a pile of horse manure. The pessimistic child was sent to the toy-filled room while the optimistic child was sent to the manure-filled room. Through one way mirrors, the psychologist observed the boys to see how they would respond to these unique environments. First, he observed the pessimistic child who played for a little while then suddenly stopped and complained saying, “I don’t have anybody to play with.” After hearing that, the psychologist went to observe the optimistic child and was shocked to find him digging through the manure. The psychologist ran into the room and asked what the boy was doing. He replied, “Where there’s this much manure, there’s just gotta be a pony around here somewhere!”
Hope can be a great blessing but it depends on what kind of hope it is because there is a big difference between the world’s definition of hope and the Bible’s definition of hope.
The way the world tends to use the word “hope” comes across as if it is just a “wish” or a “desire,” something you want but lack certainty of whether or not it will come to fruition. For example, a student might say, “I hope I pass my Calculus class.” What that student is really saying is that he wants to receive a passing grade, but he is not certain that he did well enough to achieve a passing grade. Another example might be a child who says, “I hope I get a new bike for Christmas.” What that child is really saying is that she wants to receive a bicycle as a gift at Christmas, but she is not certain that Santa will fulfill her request. All such hope-oriented statements demonstrate a fear that the finaloutcome may not match the desiredoutcome. As a result, such statements reveal that the world’s definition of hope lacks certainty and security.
How does that compare to the Bible’s use of “hope?” Throughout Scripture hope is referred to as something that is “living” (1 Peter 1:3), something that will not disappoint us (Romans 5:5), something that emboldens us (2 Corinthians 3:12), and something in which we should both “rejoice” (Romans 5:2) and “abound” (Romans 15:13).Based on these passages, the Bible’s use of “hope” sounds much more confident than the world’s use of “hope.”
What makes biblical hope different? Biblical hope is different because it possesses security. In Hebrews 6:19 hope is referred to as a “sure and steadfast anchor.” This is a unique metaphor when you considerthe purpose of an anchor. An anchor is designed to hold a moveable object in place by attaching itself to an immovable object. It exists for the sole purpose of preventing drift by securing a vessel to an immovable substance. So, for example, you have sand anchors which secure a vessel to the ocean floor by burying themselves in the sand, and you have reef anchors which secure a vessel to a large object, such as a rock, by hooking onto it. Regardless of the means of attachment, anchors are intended to secure a vessel to something that is unlikely to move.
Biblical hope functions like an anchor because it secures us to God who is immutable. Immutable means that God does not and will not change. God made this declaration Himself in Malachi 3:6, when He said, “I am the LORD, I do not change.” One of the psalmists reiterated this attribute of God when he wrote in Psalm 102:25-27 that the earth and heavens,
will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.
Thus, Scripture asserts that God is unchanging when it comes to His essence, character, purpose, and promises. In other words, He will always be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He will not stop possessing the traits of holiness, righteousness, love, and mercy. He will not break a promise that He made to mankind nor will He stop pursuing a relationship with us. God is immutable.
The fact that God does not change is the reason biblical hope is routinely associated with the character of God. Consider Jeremiah’s lamentin Lamentations 3.Jeremiah bemoans all of the bad things that have happened to him, going so far as to say “I have forgotten what happiness is” (Lamentations 3:17). But then he stopped complaining as he remembered God’s character. Look at what he said in verses 21-24.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
In other words, Jeremiah possessed hope despite all of his hardships because God is loving, merciful, and faithful. His words reveal a relationship between hope and the character of God. And it is that relationship between hope and God that makes hope a blessing. Paul pointed out in Ephesians 2:12 that those who are outside of Christ are not only “separate[d] from Christ, excluded from citizenship…and foreigners to the covenants of the promise” but also “without hope and without God in the world.” Thus, hope is a unique spiritual blessing bestowed only to those who are in Christ. As a result, we should approach each day “hold[ing] fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).