Hope Against Hope

June 14th, 2013

Over a month after three young women were rescued from a real-life house of horrors, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight and their families live as testimonies to an unwavering hope that defies common sense, despair, and fatigue. These girls spent ten years enduring extreme abuse and torture, yet somehow kept a hope of escape or rescue. That hope led Amanda Berry to seize an opportunity, get the attention of a neighbor, and ultimately crawl out of a kicked-in hole in the door.

Hope can be such a difficult concept to grasp—not just for teens but for anyone. It doesn’t make sense to expect that a ten-year-old case would be solved. It doesn’t make sense that girls who had experienced such torture and abuse would still have the courage to seek escape. It doesn’t make sense that mothers of the young women would continue to believe, without any doubt, that their daughters were not only alive but also would one day be found. Praise God, their hope became reality. So how do we learn to hope? Where does our ability to hope come from? And what does Christian hope mean for our lives as believers in Jesus Christ?

What Is Hope?

Our language doesn’t do justice to the word hope. We have confused hope with wishing for something. But hoping is so much more than wishing. Wishing is what you do when you don’t know what will happen. Wishing is wanting a thing or an outcome. But hoping is something completely different. Hoping is believing with anticipation and expectation that your hope will result in a welcome conclusion.

Christian hope keeps us from stewing in anxiety and worry. If we believe that God is good and that God is for us then, despite horrific tragedy, we can find hope in the nature and the promises of God. Hope does not exempt us from suffering, but it reminds us that, regardless of the pain we experience on earth, we have a promise of eternal joy and peace.

Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we’d like. We may hope for healing that never comes in physical form. We may hope for reconciliation that never takes place on this side of eternity. But our hoping is never in vain. There are plenty of parents hoping against hope that their missing children will be found and returned safely to them. There are hospitals full of patients who hope against hope for a cure. This hope does not disappoint because, as Paul says in Romans 5:5, God’s love “has been poured out in our hearts.” God’s love pours into our hearts and lives. God is for us. God loves us and our hope is found in God alone. Our hope is in the promise that God will continue to work all things together for our good (see Romans 8:28) and for the good of all creation.

Beyond Wishful Thinking

As we mature in our faith, we move beyond wishful thinking to an unwavering, steady hope that God will reveal God’s plan in God’s own time. In Christ we are not bound to our despair, our broken hearts, our physical pain, or our disappointment. We proclaim with the psalmist, “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3a NIV).

Apart from God we are without hope and bound for despair. When trials come we have no foundation on which to stand. We must all claim the hope offered us through Jesus Christ, because that hope will never disappoint.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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