Her husband softly kissed her forehead, then let go of her hand as her hospital bed was moved into the operating room. For six hours, her family waited . . . and waited. Eventually, the surgeon emerged from the operating room and confirmed the surgery had gone very well. In the months that followed, the healing path unfolded with many unexpected changes.
Down hospital hallways and wedding chapel aisles, in classrooms, courtrooms, and counseling groups, from childhood playgrounds to university school grounds, we instinctively cling to a particular thread when life starts to unravel: the thread of hope.
But do we hold to the correct definition of hope? If we have an expectant, optimistic anticipation that something good will happen—if we hold to the belief that if we just work hard and pray harder, practice health and wellness, follow the path proven for a successful outcome—we’re guaranteed an inspiring return on investment, right?
Nope. Not necessarily.
Clinging to the Thread of Hope
But isn’t this what the Bible teaches? Who hasn’t heard these (mis)interpretations of Scripture:
- Romans 8:28: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.”
Thread of (false) hope: “Trust God, and life will be good—at least better than without God.”
- Proverbs 22:6: “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (NLT).
Thread of (false) hope: “Here’s a guaranteed formula to produce spiritually devout kids.”
- The Bible tells of Joseph, David, Job, Esther, Hannah, and many others who endured hard times, clung to God, and—KA-BOOM!—they got their “happily ever after.” After all, they deserved it, right?
Thread of (false) hope: Endurance from God is a return on investment I won’t pass up!
Is this really what hope is all about in the Christian life? Formulas? Returns on investment?
It sounds more like the perfect setup for total Christian disillusionment.
What Hope Is Not
Sadly, so many of us see hope through the lens of our circumstances rather than the clear focus on God’s truth. When our thread of hope breaks, we are baffled and blame God for messing up our lives.
Because hope is so critical in our lives, it’s vital we have a correct understanding of what hope in Christ means and how it applies to our lives. To do that, let’s begin with what hope is not.
Christian hope does not mean . . .
- We will have fewer trials.
- We will be financially successful.
- We will be healed from pain and disease.
- We will be happy all the time.
- We will have perfect kids who grow up and love Jesus.
- We will never face emotional or mental challenges.
- We will have a loving, lifelong marriage.
- We will be able to follow our dreams and know our purpose without disappointments or setbacks.
Read that list again . . . slowly. Where is the focus? (Hint: notice the personal pronouns!)
Each item is egocentric and focused on earthly results—I am guaranteed a better life because, after all, God is on my side. Sounds like preschoolers arguing: “My dad is bigger than your dad! Na-na-na-na-na!” We childishly believe that God owes us a better life because we have offered Him our trust.
How nice of us.
As if God owes us. Please! That is entitlement at its best, which is the polar opposite of completely surrendering our lives into His hands and trusting Him to prepare us for eternity with Him, even through the toughest moments.
Questions as a Lens
In the days ahead, I urge you to examine hope through the lens of these questions:
- How have you defined hope—by what God has or hasn’t done for you?
- Have you blamed Him for circumstances that He did or didn’t allow?
- Has life tossed you so far outside your comfort zone you are angry rather than thankful for His sovereign faithfulness?
- Has pain driven you to cling to God?
- If given ease, would you know Him like you do?
It’s time to make a grown-up decision and talk with the Lord today—to thank Him for the hard times because they have caused you to plunge into His sovereign care.
Remember that family I mentioned above—that husband who kissed his wife on the forehead before surgery? That was my husband, my family waiting through my long surgery and very long, painful recovery. The pain continues; so does recovery.
Did God let me down because I prayed for healing and yet the pain continues? No. It’s taken me decades to understand this truth: pain has brought me to a dependence on Him I would have never known if given relief. In spite of the pain, He has been and continues to be faithful.
Let Me Hear from You
What one or two areas of hope need to be redefined . . . better yet, reframed in your life? Let’s connect on that today.
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