I was able to get my first vaccine, and I drove home with a scheduled date for my second shot—and lots of hope. We have a lot to look forward to in the months ahead—probably. It is a unique joy when an unknowable hope becomes a reality.
I’m thrilled that I will be vaccinated and look forward to better times ahead. However, I am too often concerned about the trajectory of our culture. I can’t tolerate what I see happening on my television that God would never condone. I cringe when I see the abnormal being normalized.
Sometimes hope is waiting for what we know will happen. At other times, we hope for things because we can’t know what the future holds.
DID JESUS HOPE?
I just finished a long conversation with my theologian husband. I was writing this blog post on hope when I wondered, “Did Jesus ever hope for anything?”
That question does not have an easy answer. At the end of a lot of research and a lot of thinking, we could only come up with one moment in Scripture that Jesus might have hoped like we hope.
Jesus was God incarnate. He knew God face-to-face. Jesus knew his purpose and knew God would fulfill that purpose. Jesus didn’t need hope for the future; he knew the future.
Jesus never worried about an early death. Jesus never worried about losing his job. Jesus didn’t worry that his prayers wouldn’t be answered by God. Jesus didn’t ever worry or wonder about the future, so he didn’t spend time hoping.
The only time in Scripture Jesus comes close to hoping and praying like we often do is in the garden of Gethsemane when he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Was Jesus hoping God would do something different? Was Jesus hoping those torches he was watching from the garden would turn and go another direction? Was Jesus hoping God would do for him what he had done for Abraham when he provided a ram on Mount Moriah? Did Jesus hope he wouldn’t have to be the sacrificial lamb?
When we considered the entirety of Scripture, as best we can tell, that moment was the only time Jesus hoped for something else, something different.
But, even in that hope, what Jesus most wanted was that God’s will would be accomplished.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FAITH AND HOPE
I hung a poster in my room when I was a teenager that read, “‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen’ —Hebrews 11:1.” I remember I liked those words but always knew I didn’t really understand their meaning. I’m not completely sure I do today, but I will try.
I guess you could say I have faith that I will get my second vaccine shot. The evidence is there. But, I hope the vaccine will mean I won’t ever get sick with COVID-19. We don’t have enough evidence yet for us to have complete faith in the shot.
My faith in Christ’s resurrection is the reason I have the assurance of eternal life. Grace and forgiveness are gifts, guaranteed by Christ, because my faith is in him. I trust God’s word on the subject of salvation. But, I hope God gives me a long life and ministry here on earth. I have faith that God will grant me eternal life. I have hope that God will grant me a long life.
WHEN WE HAVE TO SAY “IF”
Jesus prayed in agony to his Father, saying, “If you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Jesus knew what was going to happen. Did he hope God would spare him the agony of physical pain and spiritual separation from God?
When we say to God “if you are willing,” it is a hope, not a promise. Paul understood the difference between hope and faith and explained it by saying, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24–25).
Jesus hoped God would be “willing” but had faith in the perfection of God’s will. That is our example for hope in prayer and faith in God’s answers.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE FOR?
I hope COVID-19 will soon be eradicated. I hope my family will live long, productive lives. I hope that the power grid won’t ever fail again and leave us in the cold. I hope that God gives us cures for cancers and other diseases. I hope that the world will be a kinder, more thoughtful place.
I hope the people I love will all choose Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and I hope that for others as well. And, I hope Jesus returns soon so that I can stop hoping for other things.
But, my faith in God tells me that none of those hopes are promises. I know there is a difference between the things I hope for and the things I hope for in faith. I hope Jesus will come again soon. I have faith that Jesus will come again.
FAITH—UNTIL HOPE ISN’T NEEDED
I don’t know what you are hoping for today. I imagine there are some reading these words who hope the chemo will work or the surgery will be a success. I imagine there are some who have lost hope in God’s promises and others who are comforted by those same words.
Don’t ever allow anyone to tell you that the Christian life is easy. Christ didn’t come to make this life easy; he came to make eternal life possible. He came so that our faith could be more than hope. He came so our faith could become sight. Christians will spend eternity in heaven with hope fulfilled.
Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
Never feel bad for hoping and praying that things will be easier. Jesus did that too. But, the next time “easy” isn’t God’s will, walk with faith in Jesus. He remembers his prayer in the garden and understands.
Some hopes are unknowable. Faith knows what hope cannot.