“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 NRSV
The writer of Proverbs illustrates how important hope is for every person. When hope is deferred, our hearts become sick and our spirits become low.
Lee Strobel explains four distinct categories of hope. The first is wishful thinking. When we blow out the candles on a birthday cake, we make a wish for things we desire in the coming year. In the moment at hand, we project fanciful hopes of deep desires. But this is not a hope that really brings life.
A second category of hope is blind optimism. Blind optimism often ignores the problems present in our lives. Having a positive attitude is an asset, but we must also face the struggles of life. In the end, while an amount of blind optimism is admirable it does not allow us to accurately face all of reality.
A third category of hope Strobel notes is hopeful dreams. Hopeful dreams are goals we set out to achieve. When I tell myself, “I am going to lose those extra pounds and develop a healthier lifestyle.” this is an example of a hopeful dream. However, my earnest dreaming does not guarantee that which we dream for will become a reality.
While each of these expressions of hope has its place, biblical hope encompasses far more than any of these three. I Peter 1:3-4 (NRSV) announces: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” This is hope that is the tree of life the writer of Proverbs envisions.
Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent with the theme of hope. Advent the season of preparing for the coming of Christ at Christmas. When my wife and I were expecting the birth of our children, we carefully prepared for these blessed events. In that spirit advent invites us to prepare for the birth of Jesus Christ.
Biblical hope assures us that life makes sense. The promise is that God will take the tattered pieces of our complicated lives and weave a tapestry. Biblical hope assures us that frayed, scattered puzzle pieces of our existence make a beautiful picture when all placed together. This hope assures us that our lives have purpose and meaning.
Biblical hope is beyond ourselves. This hope is the confident expectation that God is in the process of keeping promises to us. Promises are made with words. With each word we offer a part of ourselves. God has been proven trustworthy and faithful in keeping promises. Where hopelessness abounds, it is in God’s nature to save — because it is in God’s nature to love. God seeks the lost, heals the wounded, forgives the offender, and gives hope to those who are in despair. It is what God does. With God as our hope, what lies ahead will truly be an adventure.