What Is Hope?

But mortals die, and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they? As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up, so mortals lie down and do not rise again; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep. (Job 14:10-12)

Job wasn’t just having a bad day; he was having a terrible month, or perhaps a terrible year.  And to make things worse, he was really wishing he could go ahead and die, while having no faith that there was anything after this life. What a terrible place to be!  “... so mortals lie down and do not rise again.” (Job 14:12)  According to Job, a tree has better prospects than a human.  “For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its roots grow old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant.” (Job 14:7-9)

Clearly Job’s outlook was impacted by the huge losses he had recently been through, but it makes me think about how bleak life can be when we have no sense of hope.

When I was a child, we did not live in a city with any major league sports teams.  My dad had grown up in Chicago and was a huge sports fan, so I inherited a love for Chicago teams - especially the Cubs.  If you are a baseball fan, you may know that the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908, which means that my father, who was born in 1918, never saw the Cubs win a World Series in his lifetime.

We can “hope” for our favorite team to win the championship.  (By the way, as of today, the Cubs have the best record of all of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball, at 84-47.  Could this be the year?) Hope needs to have some kind of foundation, it seems to me.  If you have good leadership, good pitching, good hitting, and good defense, then there is probably a greater reason to have hope!

Christian hope has everything to do with who God is.  I have hope for another life after this one because of the presence, love, faithfulness, and power of God - which I have experienced over the last 35 years or so (since I became a follower of Christ).  Here is what our Church teaches about “Christian hope”:  “The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God’s purpose for the world.”  (The Book of Common Prayer, “The Catechism,” p. 861)  It goes on to extrapolate on phrases like “the coming of Christ in glory” and “everlasting life”, among other things.  This section of the Prayer Book ends with the statement:  “Our assurance as Christians is that nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.”  (This is a summary of what Paul says in Romans 8:38-39.)

To this I say, “Amen, Yes, and Hallelujah!”

Paul also writes to the believers in Corinth: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 - Read the entire chapter for a great summary of Paul’s theology of the resurrection.)

“hoped in Christ...”

Our Christian hope is way more than wishful thinking, along the lines of “I hope the Cubs finally win the championship this year.”  (If the Rockies can’t pull off a September miracle and make the playoffs and win the World Series, then I hope the Cubs do.)  No.  Our hope is in Christ.  All of the deepest hopes that I have - for you, for my family, for the world, for love to win out over hate, for peace to win out over war and violence - all of these hopes are “in Christ”, in whom “... all things in heaven and on earth were created... through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16 - Read Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 for a glimpse of how our entire life is lived “in Christ.”)

Perhaps Job had a new outlook on eternal life after God restored his fortunes.  All I know is that, for me, I have hope because of who God is and who Christ is.  In fact, my hope, like Paul’s, is fundamentally “in Christ”.  Without Christ, my outlook on life would be as bleak as Job’s, at this moment recorded in Job 14.

How about these verses for a final reflection:  

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:2-4)

Wow!  When we decide to follow Christ, we have already died, and our new life is hidden with Christ in God... and Christ becomes our life.

What do you make of that?