If you’re like me, chances are, you have had your ups and downs when it comes to hope. So much of life is waiting. Waiting for something to come or waiting for hardships to end. In the midst of the waiting, that ray of hope can be the light we so often need to persevere. However, there are times it feels elusive, and we wonder where it went, or will it ever come back. Because of this, we can lose sight of what hope means, why hope is important, and what gives us hope in life.
What does hope mean?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hope as “to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true”; “to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment”; “to expect with confidence”. We can find similar definitions taken from scripture. Strong’s Concordance references a few words in Hebrew from the Old Testament for hope. The first being the word yachal, which means “to wait” or “to be patient”. The second uses are tiqvah or qavah. These translations mean “to wait for”, “to expect”, or “look eagerly”, as well as “feeling a tension and expectation of waiting for something to happen”. The Greek word in the New Testament often used is elpo, which translates “to anticipate with pleasure” and “to welcome”. Ultimately, Merriam-Webster and the Hebrew and Greek texts point us to hope’s definition as having expectation, trust, and confidence.
Why is hope important?
Hope provides us a lens in which to perceive our hardships. Scripture says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). When we live without hope, we experience disappointment, disillusionment, and discouragement. When what we long for is delayed, and we don’t have hope in the process, it can lead to such an affliction it lingers like a sickness. This is where we often see depressive symptoms manifest in the body, and it also leaves us vulnerable spiritually. There is evidence to suggest that those who have hope and an optimistic outlook, experience less mental health symptoms, live longer, and are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
It is also important to consider what we are hoping and waiting for. Is it something that is fleeting or something that is lasting? When we experience disappointment, disillusionment, and discouragement, it is a good time to evaluate what we are valuing and putting our expectation, trust, and confidence in. If those things are anything other than in Christ, we will likely be left with the feelings of hopelessness, rather than peace or fulfillment. Multiple times in Scripture we are told to rejoice in sufferings and rejoice in hope. One can assume this is because the authors knew we would feel the weight of what it means to wait and suffer, but that does not mean we have to let our feelings dictate how we view the hardship, others, ourselves, or God. We can still praise through the pain and find joy and pleasure waiting for the outcome. Focusing on hope in hardships allows us to do this.
What gives us hope in life?
Studies show belief in a higher power often leads to more hope. As Christ followers, we get our hope from faith in Christ. We are told in Hebrews of God’s unwavering character, and how hope in Christ is the anchor for our souls. So first, we build hope when we call on the Lord, and cry out to Him. Cultivating the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) – can also foster more hope as we die to our flesh, and walk in step with Holy Spirit. It is also in this faith where we find our purpose, and purpose can give us hope.
We can also experience more hope by changing our perspective. When we focus on the negative in a situation we will find the negative, but the same is true for focusing on and finding the positive. Oftentimes, we can find ourselves thinking in broad terms, assuming things are “never going to get better”, or “it is always going to be this way”. When we confront these cognitive distortions we can notice that the struggle will pass, and we are better equipped to handle the hardship than first believed. Working through past trauma and hurts, and building resilience skills can also bring forth more hope in our lives.
Who you surround yourself with matters. The people in your life have the power to point you toward a hopeful perspective or a defeated one. People that work to cultivate hope in their lives and build others up, are priceless connections, and ones that are vital to building hope in life.
Hope is essential to the human experience. Not only is it important to cultivate us into stronger people, but it allows us the ability to deepen our dependence on Christ and face the inevitable hardships we will encounter. Hope is not just a feeling, but an action, and we must tend to it in order for it to grow.
I leave you with this blessing – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
Callie Gross – learn about working with Callie here!