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Despair will never truly overcome Christian hope

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What gives you hope—and what does it have to do with being a Christian?

Some time ago, I was asked to write a paper on hope according to the Bible for ExploreGod.com, which has now been made available. In it I shared the following story:

Because of my work, I’ve had the privilege to travel to a number of different countries in what many would consider the “two-thirds” world. These are nations that have not yet achieved higher economic development. What amazes me every time is the dignity with which men, women, and children carry themselves despite their often desperate circumstances.

Recently I spoke with a man—the son of a minister—who makes atole (a corn-based beverage) and sells it in his neighborhood in order to provide for his family. He makes about $165 a month. What I saw in this man as he shared his story was not a sense of despair because of his circumstances, but a profound sense of confidence and hope.

Speaking with him reminded me that biblical hope is not wishy-washy. Biblical hope is neither wishful thinking nor a mere desire for something we’d like to have happen. Instead, the Bible consistently presents hope as a confident expectation, an assuredness about what is to happen in the future, and even an anticipation of that future. In other words, hope is the essence of the Christian life.

Thus, hope is one of our deepest virtues as Christians. Christians are to be a hopeful people. We are to find joy in hope, overflow with hope, boast in hope, hold firmly to our hope, and even give defense for our hope. We are to endure trials because trials produce character, which in turn produces hope.

According to Scripture, then, Christians ought to be nothing less than hopeful. Indeed, we ought to be the most hopeful of people—not because we are holding to some vague sense that things may get better, but because we are certain of what is to come and confident in the one who has promised to bring it about. We are a hopeful people because of the object of our hope.

So what—or rather, who—is the object of our hope? God.

Read the rest of the paper (or download it for later) at ExploreGod.com.

Re-reading this man’s story reminds me that Christian hope is a hope which despair cannot limit. It cannot be overcome even when we feel that, as one pastor and author put it, the darkness will not lift. It is a hope that holds tremendous joy for all who believe, no matter how elusive it seems to be. And we would be wise not to pretend: When we endure extended seasons of frustration and difficulty, when we are overcome by depression or grief, when our prayers feel like they’re hitting the ceiling and that God isn’t there, it’s kind of hard to feel particularly joyful.

And yet, the reality does not change. No matter how hopeless we feel, hope exists. Hope exists because God is here with us.

“Whatsoever our condition be, let us never limit God,” wrote Richard Sibbes. “God’s people should never be better, the times were never worse. Where we be bad, God is good. Times are bad, God is good. He can alter all.” God is sovereign, whether we recognize it or not.God is present, whether we’re aware of it or not. God hears us, whether we realize it or not. He is there in every moment, at all times, in all situations. He can alter all—he can make any situation good, even if we can’t see how. And for us, that can be a tremendous source of hope, even in the darkest times.

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