There is much value in maintaining hope in our daily living. Hope is critical to the human condition. Refugees endure great suffering in the hope that they will persevere till they get to a better place. Prisoners in concentration camps and even extermination camps hang on because they have hope that relief and release will arrive.
In my work in suicide prevention, we know the number one factor in predicting a suicide attempt is having no hope that the situation will get better. Yet if we inject a little hope, the mood improves and will to live usually changes dramatically. It is likely the person will not go on to die by suicide. Likewise, one of the key factors of resilient living is hope, and those who maintain a strong and steady hope tend to exhibit many of the other factors of resilience as well.
In the human experience, hope is the key ingredient, the “secret sauce” to experiencing positive emotion and an overcoming attitude in people. It is even more so in the life of a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Almost every other thing into which we invest ourselves in the world leads eventually to disappointment. As the Bible states, “it perishes with the using.” One reason for this is that everything in this world, everything of the flesh, is of death and can only lead to death. It has to disappoint in the end.
Paul, the apostle, wrote to the Roman believers these words: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint (put us to shame), because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Look at the context of the passage. Hope is at the end of a list that starts with suffering. That suffering brings us to persevere through it. Note that Paul does not say that our hope is in the promise that suffering will be short-lived. No, the next step is perseverance. We must endure through suffering.
How long must we persevere through our sufferings? Until they have accomplished the will of our Father by the work of His Spirit in us. And under the power of the Holy Spirit these trials produce godly character in us. Not simply good human character. The character to be produced in us is His character, not something of our own.
This is why the Greek word here is not simply character, but character that has been proven by means of trials. Many translations convey this as “proven character.” It is the character of our God that He has proven across the span of the history of creation.
This is the character our God desires to build in us by the life of Christ lived in us in place of our own living. This means our pathway to true and durable hope is to surrender all of living to our God. Then He can live His life and His character in us without interruption every day. Such a life lived in us will abound in durable hope.
Oswald Chambers clarifies the primacy of our surrender this way: “Jesus Christ is always unyielding to my claim to my right to myself. The one essential element in all our Lord’s teaching about discipleship is abandon, no calculation, no trace of self-interest.”
When we live this way, the life, faith, grace, character, and hope that is in our God will begin to grow in us as well.
Image via author, Pyramid Lake, Selkirk Range, Idaho