Think of a time you were hoping for something that ended in disappointment. We’ve all been there. It could be as simple as never winning the prize in that special contest, or as heart-wrenching as a relationship ending in abuse and trauma. For me, I often find myself hoping things will get easier, that I’ll figure out how to manage my life in a way that makes me feel like I’m more in control. Raising young children—and homeschooling them!—is no small feat, after all. But eventually, things will settle down a bit. The hectic pace will slow, the tantrums will die away, the toy explosions will be fewer and the petty rivalries of my children will vanish as they suddenly grow into perfectly mature people who can navigate their emotions better than I can myself.
You know as well as I do that this is absolutely false. And that’s just the point. Why is it that so often our hopes are dashed, leaving us deflated and frustrated, or shattered and depressed?
Here’s a question for you: what are we hoping in?
Romans 5 is one of the most powerful chapters in the Bible. In verse 5, Paul writes, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit that was given to us” (NASB). Here the Bible is clearly saying hope does not disappoint, so why do we so often feel disappointed by hope?
First of all, if our idea of hope is some elusive, pie-in-the-sky wish, we have the wrong idea. Sure, we use the word “hope” in that way all the time. “I hope it doesn’t rain today.” Or even “Let’s hope this pandemic is over soon.” But what power and strength does a hope like that really have? It’s just wishful thinking. This is not biblical hope at all.
When the Bible talks about hope—and it talks about hope a lot— it’s very obvious that biblical hope is something concrete, true, and certain. Hebrews 11:1 puts it this way: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (NLT). This says plainly that what we hope for is real and evident, through faith. Romans 8:24 says, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (ESV). Again, this hope is concrete and something we can absolutely rely on. Hoping is the same as eagerly waiting.
Think back to that situation and ask yourself, “What was I hoping in?” If we are putting our hope in circumstances, in people, in anything other than God himself, we will surely be disappointed more times than not. But the truth of God’s word is this: the hope we have IN CHRIST does not and can not disappoint us. And that’s really good news!
It’s important to look at the context of that passage from Romans 5. Backing up a few verses, Paul says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we celebrate in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit that was given to us.” Do you see the difference? This is quite a bit different than hoping that job offer is going to work out, or hoping to have a happy marriage, or an expensive vacation.
These earthly dreams and wishes don’t begin to compare to the incredible hope that we have in Christ Jesus. Through him we have peace with God. Paul says it explicitly: our tribulations actually lead us to biblical hope, through the testing and forming of our character. This hope—hope in God and in his word—will never fail us, “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit that was given to us.”
So if my hope is in God my Father who loves me and promises good things for me, when things don’t work out according to my own expectations and desires, I won’t be undone. Even in the midst of immense trials and tribulations, I can have confidence. My world cannot be shaken when I am planted firmly on the rock of Christ.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV)