Perhaps one of the most quoted verses about hope is a negative one: “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick” (Proverbs 13.12). Which is often understood along the lines of “when you don’t get what you hoped to get you get disappointed”.
It would be a mistake however to limit our understanding of hope to what happens when it is unfulfilled.
Hope is an incredibly important virtue. Along with faith and love, it has pride of place amongst Christian virtues (1 Corinthians 13.13).
Even the world recognises the importance of hope. Listen to what health care professionals said in two different articles in Psychology Today:
“For my patients,” Groopman writes, “hope, true hope, has proved as important as any medication I might prescribe or any procedure I might perform.” (Psychology Today)
“If I could find a way to package and dispense hope, I would have a pill more powerful than any antidepressant on the market. Hope, is often the only thing between man and the abyss. As long as a patient, individual or victim has hope, they can recover from anything and everything.” (Psychology Today)
The kind of hope the Bible talks about is something even more powerful, because it has as its object God Himself and is based on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
I think it’s fair to say that we talk more about faith and love than hope. Which is strange, when considering the coverage the New Testament gives to it.
Hope enables us to endure (1 Thessalonians 1.3). It enables us to stare death in the face – and not blink first (1 Thessalonians 4.13)! It has a purifying power (1 John 3.3).
There are however two images used in the New Testament to convey the positive impact of hope.
One is found in 1 Thessalonians 5.8. Paul talks about the hope of salvation as a helmet. Just as a helmet protects a soldier’s head, so hope, godly hope protects us from the negative, destructive thoughts that the enemy seeks to implant in our minds.
One major way of protecting our minds is putting on hope as a helmet. That means developing patterns of thinking that focus on a God-shaped future, rather than a future shaped by anyone or anything else.
As second image used in association with hope is that of an anchor (Hebrews 6.19).
Anchors keep ships stable in an unstable element. When our hope is firmly anchored in Christ, we are enabled to remain stable amidst the instability all around us.
It also means that we won’t drift when the storms come. A ship that is adrift is dangerous indeed. First of all, it has no direction. Secondly, it is a danger to itself and other vessels. When we lose our hope, we drift. We lose direction in life. And we become a danger to others as well as ourselves.
Hope is incredibly important. Keep your helmet on. And keep your anchor firm.