First there was the couple who hoped their twin boys would just get along. Then there was the guy who hoped the giant boat he was building really would end up needing use in the end. There was an old man who hoped God would make good on His promise to bless him with descendants that outnumbered the stars. There was a mother who hoped her infant son would be spared when she placed him amid the swaying waters of the Nile. And there was an entire nation of people who hoped that someday, someday, they'd be looking at the soil they were meant to inherit - not foreign ground they were forced to work.
Hope is woven through every story and life in the books of the Old Testament. But not so much in word as in - something else. No one has to say they're hoping for a child or a spouse or their father's blessing or deliverance or purpose or rescue. It's just there, in the lines that sculpt their faces in our minds as we read, that make them as real today as they were all those years ago. We know they hoped because we do, too, and we know that we would had we been in their shoes.
But the Bible doesn't think of hope as we do. The Bible-kind of hoping is different. If you look for the word 'hope' in the back of my Bible, for instance, the verb hope, the first mention of it isn't anywhere near any of these stories. Not that hope didn't exist. It just seems hope, in its purest, most God-given form, was meant to make an entrance on a stage a little more bizarre. A stage where it would seem totally inappropriate, in fact. God chooses to first place this verb - 'hope' - before us in the book of Job. A book I have hardly ever read and do not particularly enjoy reading. A book I read a few days in a row about a year ago and now am happy to pass over. But a book that, strangely, the Father seemed to feel was absolutely perfect for the introduction of the idea of Biblical hope. And He ties it to these words that come out of Job's mouth: "Because even if He killed me" - lovely - "I'd keep on hoping."
God loves us. And He cares deeply about every detail of our lives. But He also wants us to grow up. There are things in us that we don't have to mature into; they're just a basic part of our DNA. It's not that these things are always wrong, but they aren't the best. The best was what we were created for, but we're now a part of a human race that will always be flawed until God sets us right again. And part of our journey, if we decide to follow Christ, is to figure out what the "best" things are - what we were created for. Interestingly we aren't alone in the figuring out - God longs to show us. But it does require some action on our part. Some reaching for the best. Here's an example: we are all born as dreamers. But it would seem that sometimes, God doesn't care about our dreams. We don't often get the job we've always dreamed of, or the spouse or the kids or the paycheck or even the things we'd label, on our own, as more worthy than others. Some of us dream of going into ministry only to find our efforts thwarted at every turn in the road. It's far easier to swallow God's blatant rejection of your dream to own a BMW than to see Him dispel your dreams of adopting internationally. It doesn't make sense. If what we dream of is good, dignified, holy even, then why does He say no? Because we can dream without Him. There is something harder to do than dream, something deeper and grittier and much more costly. Hope. It is the better of the two, and it is one of the bests we as believers are called to.
But hope is not something we are born with. It is not a part of our basic DNA. We are actually disinclined to hope, and this is because we are, in our human nature, creatures of fear. Hope is the opposition of fear - but not in an antonymical kind of way. In an opposing, force vs. force kind of way. God doesn't give us a spirit of fear - but we inherited it when we were born into sin. God tells us that hope is one of the three things that remain - beside it are faith and love - and what remains is certainly not of this world or of this flesh. What remains is His entirely. And without Him, we cannot taste or see or understand it. We like to use the word 'hope' because we intrinsically know it means something greater than 'want' or 'dream' or 'wish'. But we don't know why. When I learned I was pregnant, I felt the Father extending it to me. I was totally battered and entirely furious with Him and I honestly wanted nothing to do with it, but like the starving child whose pride has finally worn thin, I begrudgingly took HIs hand and held within my own something entirely new to me. I was hesitant at first because fear, as horrid and draining as it is, was a comfort. It made me feel sane, since fear is what so many seemed to think I should feel. And it made me feel powerful, since as long as I feared I was in control. Fear kept me from looking like an idiot. But, like I said, I was starving. So I reached out and took hold of Hope. And it was awkward. It still is. Hoping does not come easily. But I can do it now. Because, in some ways, He killed me. Or, more specifically, He killed my dreams. It was Him, after all, who let me starve. But now I am feasting. And it's like I never tasted in the first place.
Let God give you Hope. It will not feel good. Mostly because He usually has to strip something good away. But it will, for lack of a better word, blow your mind. God will absolutely blow the doors off of what you think He wants to do for you. When Paul writes to the church in Corinth that "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9), he isn't making it up. And he isn't just talking about Heaven. There's so much to life that we often miss because we hold onto what we are convinced is the best. Let God give you the best. Stop trying to figure out how to get your hands on it. Stop trying to be good enough or to think in the right way or to accept where you are and what life has handed you (frustratingly, reverse psychology doesn't work on Him). Stop trying. Hold out your hand and ask for Hope.