It is perhaps the most powerful expression of the human spirit.
In its absence, there is anxiety, depression, fear, discontent.
The Bible calls it hope.
I’ve marveled recently at the effect of hope’s presence – and absence – among the dying, the unemployed, the sick, and the overwhelmed.
Hope so often is the difference between merely existing and living well. It’s the vim and vigor that allows a person to face life’s greatest challenges, even its end, with quiet confidence, if not outright joy.
As important as it is, for many hope remains elusive. Where can it be found?
If the famous atheist, Jean-Paul Sartre, could speak to us from his grave, he might give a surprising answer. In the last months of his life, Sartre tried to resist strong feelings of despair. He said over and over again, “I know I shall die in hope.”
Then in profound sadness, he added, “But hope needs a foundation.”
Hope, it seems, is no mere trick of the mind. We cannot will ourselves to hope.
Hope needs a source outside of us.
The apostle Paul describes this source in his opening remarks to Timothy, whom he had sent to pastor a church with serious problems:
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1 – NKJV).
What an astounding description of Jesus Christ. He is our hope.
Christians have hope for the future because Jesus Christ has given it to us. He came to repair the breach between God and man created by sin. Apart from him, there is really no hope, but the very emptiness the atheist Sartre found at the end of his life.
He was right. Hope needs a foundation.
Lately I have been amazed at how quickly we place our hope in things that ultimately have no certainty. How many people do you suppose are disappointed after having placed their hope in a retirement fund? Or a doctor’s report? Or a job interview?
Yes, those things matter, but putting our hope in earthly things is a risky business. Circumstances are fickle. We need a hope that cannot be touched by circumstances.
We find that hope by trusting in God, and the provision of his son, Jesus.
The Bible says very plainly that to make anything else a source of hope will not only disappoint us, but ultimately curse us:
“This is what the Lord says: Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future … But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence” (Jeremiah 17:5-7 – NLT).
Lately I’ve been thinking that this kind of hope is inextricably linked to the reality of heaven.
Heaven is something God would have us think more about: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3 – NKJV).
A heavenly destiny for believers in Christ is so certain that the Bible at times refers to it in the active present tense, as if the promise of heaven has already been fulfilled.
It’s that certain.
Embracing our heavenly future does not disengage us from the important matters of this life. No, the Christian’s hope of heaven is like a compass, pointing our attitudes and goals in the right direction.
What is your hope anchored to these days?
There is good medicine in indulging our spirits with thoughts of our heavenly future, trusting in the savior who died for us that we might have this eternal hope.
After all, there is a reason we have a nagging sense of discontent with worldly things. We were created for another world!
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