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What is Hope?

faith hope Oct 15, 2020

What is hope?

3 Practical Ways to Find Hope

During a  severe health crisis and recent hospitalization, I was at a very low point in my life. I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  

After years of ongoing physical, financial, and emotional struggles, I began to wonder if God was still there. Does He hear my prayers? Does He see me and does He really even care? 

Isn’t God supposed to answer the cries of our hearts? Was He not listening or, even worse, was He ignoring me? If so, what hope could I possibly have for my struggles to end? 

I became desperate for hope. I knew that I was on the edge of hopelessness and despair, but as a Christian and a counselor, I didn’t want to admit it because Christian counselors are not ‘supposed’ to feel this way. 

Some friends invited my husband and me to see the movie The Pilgrim's Progress. In the movie, the citizens of Vanity Fair are about to martyr the main character named Christian. As Christian is sitting in jail awaiting his pending death, a character named Hope arrived to help Christian escape from prison and death. As Christian continues on his journey to the Golden City, Hope never left him. 

This movie highlighted the importance of hope in my life. Hope is important for the battles we face. Hope is needed for our daily lives and navigating all the life situations that we encounter.  

After this realization about the importance of hope, I began to study hope. I wanted to understand it, and most importantly, find it. 

My personal mission is to help those who feel hopeless, abandoned, unloved, and unseen to find encouragement, comfort, and, most importantly - HOPE.

 

Definitions of hope

Dictionary

According to Merriam-Webster, hope is both a verb and a noun. We can have hope (noun), which is the desire or belief for something to happen or be true, "I have hope today will be a good day." We can hope (verb) by wanting the desire or belief to be true, "I hope you have a good day today."

Bible

Strong’s Concordance defines hope biblically as the joyful, serene, and confident expectation of eternal salvation. 

Scripture defines hope in two ways.

  1. A Process 
  2. A Person

Hope as a Process

Romans 5:1-5 shows hope to be the endpoint of tribulations.

"Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.        

According to this passage, hope is the endpoint of tribulations. In other words, tribulations produce hope. In theory, we should be VERY hopeful! 

Hope as a Person

The Apostle Paul calls Jesus Christ our hope in 1 Peter 1:3 and 1 Timothy 1:1

1 Peter 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1 Timothy 1:1

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior, and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.

Hope is both a process and a Person.

Psychology

In 1991, according to Psychology Today, psychologist Charles R. Snyder and his colleagues came up with Hope Theory. According to their theory, the person who has hope has both the will and determination to achieve their goals and a set of different strategies available to reach their goals. 

Put simply: hope involves the will to get to the end. A person who has hope will utilize many ways to achieve their goals. The Hope Theory considers hope as a dynamic cognitive motivational system that aids in learning goals that Snyder shows be positively related to success in life.  

Various scientific studies show that hope is the vehicle to get you to places in life that you never thought possible. Science agrees with the Word of God with hope being a confident expectation of a good outcome.

For our purposes, I will focus on the biblical aspect of hope.

Hope vs Faith Comparison

  • Hope and faith are not the same. 
  • Hope is for the future, and faith is for the present.
  • Hope is in your mind, and faith is in your heart. 

Hope and faith are not the same.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, Paul speaks about the work of faith, the labor of love, and the steadfastness of hope. 

Faith produces work or action (James 2:14 and James 2:26). It is not passive; it is alive and active. 

Love produces labor or hard, sacrificial giving on behalf of others. 

Hope is steadfast and developed by endurance and perseverance (Romans 5:1-5). Romans 8:25 says that we wait for hope with patience. 

First Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The steadfastness of hope is necessary for us to be able to perform the work of faith and the labor of love. 

In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter tells us to rest, fix or place our hope completely on the grace brought by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Hope has a specific focus, while faith spurs us to action.

Hope is for the future and faith is for the present.

Hebrews 1:1-3 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. The word ‘substance’ in this passage means an underlying foundation. Faith is the bedrock on which hope is supported. Since faith is a substance, it is present right now.

Hope that one can see is not hope because we do not hope for what we see. (Romans 8:24-25) Proverbs 24:14 talks about a ‘future hope’ available for us if we find wisdom.

King David says that he would have despaired or lost hope unless he had believed that he would see the goodness of God in the land (Psalm 27:13). He would have lost hope unless he had faith. What keeps us from despair or hopelessness is not what we see in the present, but what we believe for the future.

In Derek Prince’s book, Unshakeable Hope, he says that faith is ultimately based on the Word of God and the fact that the whole universe was brought into being by the invisible Word of God. 

Hebrews 3:6 says that we are” to hold onto our hope until the end.” Holding onto hope is not a passive inner expectation but a firm conviction based on our Faith in Jesus and His Word. Our hope for the future is based on our faith in the present because our faith is the substance or foundation of our hope.

Hope is in your mind and faith is in your heart.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul instructs us to be sober and put on the breastplate of faith and love along with the helmet of the hope of salvation. 

Proverbs 23;7 says that as a man thinks in his heart so is he. Jesus says that what defiles a man is in his heart (Matthew 15:18), while Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our hearts diligently. 

Given the importance of our heart for our faith, donning the breastplate of faith is vital. We must protect our hearts since faith resides there (Romans 10:10).

The helmet of the hope of salvation protects your mind. The thoughts we think are critical to our wellbeing.  In Lamentations 3:21, Jeremiah, the prophet, mentions that recalling or thinking about God’s mercies and faithfulness bring him hope. 

Paul, the Apostle, encourages us to think about good things (Philippians 4:8-9). He also tells us to renew our minds so that we may know the good, acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).

Renewing our minds is a requirement for believing that God’s thoughts are for you and He desires to give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

How to Find Hope

So, how do you find hope?

The good news is that according to Jeremiah 29:11-14, finding hope is possible; it only requires three things.

  1. Believe God has good thoughts
  2. Praying to God
  3. Searching for Him with our whole heart

Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

In this passage, God says that He wants to give us a future and hope. He then goes on to say what will happen if we believe Him. 

  • We will call upon Him and pray to Him. 
  • He will listen to us.
  • We will seek Him
  • We will find Him if we search with all of our hearts.

There are two conditions required to receive the 2 promises mentioned in this scripture passage.

God says that He 

  1. will listen to us
  2. will be found 

IF we

  1. Pray to Him 
  2. Search for Him with our whole heart.

These promises sound wonderful but what if we struggle believing that God is good? How does praying and searching for Him give us hope? Or what if we have been praying for our circumstances for a long time and have not had our prayers answered?


Three Practical Applications to Find Hope for Your Life

  1. Believe God is Good 
  2. Praying  
  3. Seek God Relentlessly

Believe 

Dr. Henry Cloud says that 

 "Relationship or bonding... is at the foundation of God's nature. Since we are created in his likeness, the relationship is our most fundamental need, the very foundation of who we are. Without relationship, without attachment to God and others, we can't be ourselves."

Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Gary Sibcy, in their book Attachments: Why You Love, Feel and Act the Way You Do, describe God as the ultimate attachment figure. We need God as the center of our emotional universe. 

Drs. Clinton and Sibcy described 5 Criteria for a positive Attachment Relationship.

  1. We seek proximity to the caregiver in times of trouble.
  2. The caregiver provides a safe haven or a felt sense of security.
  3. The caregiver provides a secure base from which to explore the world.
  4. Any threat of separation induces fear and anxiety.
  5. Loss of the caregiver induces grief and sorrow.

 God, the Father, satisfies all these conditions if we let Him.

  1. He is our ever-present help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
  2. He is our refuge and fortress. (Psalm 91:2
  3. He is our Rock. (Psalm 62:2)
  4. He will never leave us or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
  5. Without Him, we have no hope (Ephesians 2:12)

We must believe that God is good and has good thoughts about us, thoughts to give us a future and a hope. God, through Jesus Christ, made us co-heirs with Christ and has given us every spiritual blessing. I know it may not ‘feel’ like you are blessed, but that is when we need faith, the substance of things hoped for, not hopeful feelings, good vibes, or karma.

Beth Moore shared in her book, Believing God 5 phrases to refocus your eyes on Jesus and His truth rather than what you see or feel. I wrote these on an index card and placed it by my computer so it is visible to me throughout the day.

  1. God is who He says He is.
  2. God can do what He says He can do.
  3. I am who God says that I am.
  4. I can do all things through Christ.
  5. God’s word is active and alive in me.

When we place our hope or thoughts on Jesus, we can declare the same thing as King David when he said that he would have despaired had he not believed in the goodness of God. (Psalm 27:13)

  

Pray

Praying is simple and yields powerful results yet it is a discipline that we often neglect.

Jesus spent time teaching His disciples to pray (Luke 11:1-13) and on many occasions, He went to be alone to pray. I find it interesting that He never taught His disciples to preach but He did teach them to pray. How different would things be if we prayed more than preached? Sounds like an interesting future blog post. 

In his classic book, On Prayer, EM Bounds says,

 “Christ, who in this as well as other things is our Example, spent many whole nights in prayer. His custom was to pray much.  He had his habitual place to pray.  Many long seasons of praying make up his history and character.  Paul prayed day and night.  It took time from very important interests for Daniel to pray three times a day.  David's morning, noon, and night praying were doubtless on many occasions very protracted.  While we have no specific account of the time these Bible saints spent in prayer, yet the indications are that they consumed much time in prayer, and on some occasions, long seasons of praying was their custom.”

Martin Luther said that “much time spent with God is the secret of all successful prayer.” 

According to scripture, we are to pray:

  1. About everything (Philippians 4:6-7)
  2. Earnestly (Colossians 4:2)
  3. Without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

Personally, I like simple direct prayers. I know that when my prayers have few words such as ‘Lord, help me!”, they are very effective. Another key for me is to find scripture relevant to my situation and pray the scripture the situation. This makes it very easy to pray and it helps me to not overthink on the situation. I believe God’s Word and apply it to my life.

 Seek 

The 3rd step in finding Hope is to seek God with all your heart and pursue Him relentlessly.

 Where are you looking for hope? Do you place your expectation of hope in a prescription, alcohol, shopping, or another person? 

 We must focus on Jesus, our Living Hope. He is the only Anchor for us. The world around us is changing at an alarming rate and what we thought we could count on having is no longer certain. 

 For many people, their crutch of dependency is being pulled out from them. What are you leaning on to get you through the tough times? 

 It is necessary to forgo social media and many digital entertainment options. Preoccupation with worldly drama is not a solution to hopelessness. Jesus Christ is the solution. 

 The Real Housewives of Whatever City will not help you in the pit of despair. The political party of your choosing will not come to your rescue in a time of need. Social media neither gives life nor encourages it. Jesus Christ is the only One who is with you wherever you are and is always willing to listen. 

 I encourage you to call out to Him today and seek Him with all your heart.

 

 If you are interested in joining my 40-Day Hope Challenge please click here for more info.

Conclusion

After spending quite a bit of time believing that I had lost hope, I realized that what I lost was not really hope. What I lost was a belief in me and my abilities. I believed that if I did everything right, then things would turn out the way I expected. Or if I just had more knowledge about a subject, then it would be much better. Or if I just worked harder, then things would be ok.

I placed my belief in me and it turns out that I am a poor substitute for hope. It took being in a position not to be able to rely on myself for things that forced me to let go of all that I held close. Self-sufficiency was my crutch of dependency.

I had no choice but to trust Jesus, the Living Hope.

When I started letting go of control, I saw God work in ways I never imagined. He sent workers to do His will in every situation. As I sat back and watched events unfold, I realized I was beginning to have hope. Hope was surfacing because of Jesus, not me.

 I chose to believe His Word, and I found hope. I believe there is hope for you!

Blessings!

Michelle

 

 

 








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