What Is Hope?

What Is Hope?

Anchor_bcocThere is a vast 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 the 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 actually 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 actually 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 final outcome may not match the desired outcome. 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 consider the 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. Thus, biblical hope is a secure attachment to something in which you can have complete confidence. 

If biblical hope is a secure attachment, then to what must it be attached? Consider Jeremiah’s lament in 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.

Biblical hope functions like an anchor because it secures us to God who is immutable. The term “immutable” means unchanging. In Malachi 3:6, God 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 our hope can be securely attached to Him.

So, the question each of us has to ask ourselves is to what have we secured our hope? Is your hope secured to some variable that can be manipulated by external forces? Finances can be manipulated by changing economic climates. Relationships can be manipulated by changing emotional climates. Ideologies can be manipulated by changing philosophical climates. Fame can be manipulated by changing social climates. Occupations can be manipulated by changing political, technological, or industrial climates. Security can only be found where immutability exists, and God is the only entity that meets the qualifications of immutability. That is why you and I can find hope in Him despite the circumstances we face.