Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-6)
Hope does not disappoint?
Can this be true?
Right this moment I can think of many hopes that have been disappointed in my life. When I was 6, I wanted a baby sister. When my mom was set to deliver her 5th child, I crossed my fingers and didn’t uncross them until they brought my 4th brother home from the hospital. I even wrote with my fingers crossed, which was quite the attraction for the kindergarten teachers that week. When I was 13, I “fell in love” with Al Ugalde. I wrote his name on my notebook and made googly eyes at him and told everyone I “loved” him, hoping he’d be touched and return the gestures. He didn't. When I graduated from high school I put my hope in my life plan: go to college, meet a nice man, get married, become June Cleaver (though probably sans apron). Like the hope of a sister and the love of Al, those hopes ended in disappointment, too.
Today, I still have hopes. I hope to win the love of a godly man, to raise a family and see my parents and brothers and nephews and nieces come to know the Lord. Thus far, there isn’t much more than momentary flickers of action that look like possibility on any of these fronts. From this vantage point, it might seem that these hopes, like all the others, have or will end in disappointment.
But God’s word says “hope does not disappoint.” I think we can all agree, with or without my silly examples, that hopes can in fact be disappointed, but I don’t think that is what Paul was talking about. He says “Hope” does not disappoint, that is, choosing to be hopeful will never leave us disappointed…a hopeful heart is not a disappointed heart. There is no room for disappointment when the attitude of one’s heart and the thoughts in one’s head are set on all that is possible and not on what seems impossible. But, I also think, Paul is not speaking about hope of the kind that kept my fingers crossed for a week or made me a shameless flirt or even led to much grief and many tears in college. The hope Paul is speaking of is hope that is set on something certain, constant…that endures and builds character…hope that changes us.
There is only one thing we can set our hope on that is constant and has the ability to change us and that is God Himself. Everything else, no matter how good it seems, is prone to change and tends only to build selfishness and self-centeredness, not character, and as such, will generally lead to disappointment of some form or another.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 43:5)
Hope in God?
What does that mean, though?
Does is mean I turn off my “hopes” for other things? No, I don’t believe so. We are told we have not because we ask not. Who asks for something he does not want…or does not hope to have? No one. God knows we want things. But there is a difference between wanting and demanding. A heart which has set its hope on God wants and asks yet knows that the answer may be "no". Its hope is not set on getting the desired result, but on God’s will being done. It can say, “though you deny me this, still I will praise you!” It isn’t always easy. Right now, even, I want something (a specific something) very badly. I can see it, and have feelings about it, and can only foresee good things if the current desires of my heart and the Lord’s agreed. I have hope (little “h”) that the Lord will have favor on me and grant this request. But my Hope (big “H”) is set on God, the Shepherd of my Soul, who chose me before the foundation of the world, who is right now interceding for me, who is my Advocate with the Father.
My Advocate with the Father!
I can’t think of a single person on this planet right now that is my Advocate. Not a single person who talks me up, goes to those who have power to effect or change my life and says: “You know, I love Tina and want these good things for her. Bless her lavishly. Give your best to her. Fill her with joy and peace.” But Jesus does…and is…right now. How can I then, demand anything when He is planning and plotting and pleading for my best…AND He knows everything, to boot? I certainly don’t know everything and my track record has proven that what I would choose is just as likely to be the worst thing for me than anything else. Though everything in my natural self fights against this, it would actually be stupid to Hope in anything but His plans and purposes for my life.
Hope does not disappoint…
We have His assurance and His promise: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart…(Jeremiah 29:11-13)
A future and a hope…that is His promise.
Oh may we, may I, trust Him and Hope only in Him!