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When Hope Is Hard

Olivia Davis

What do we do when hope is hard?

Hoping for What Isn’t Yet

In Genesis, Abraham and Sarah grapple with the pain of having no children. Although God promised they would become a great nation (Genesis 12:2; 15:5), the waiting became agonizing, and Sarah gave Abraham her servant Hagar in an effort to accomplish God’s promise by her own means. A full thirteen years later (Genesis 16:16; 17:1) Abraham and Sarah had a child named Isaac, and from his line came the twelve tribes of Israel, the long-promised great nation.

As was the case with Abraham and Sarah, God’s promises sometimes take significant time to come to pass. From the first mention of the Messiah (Genesis 3:15) to the birth of Christ (Luke 2:7), thousands of years passed. The Israelites were in captivity for 400 years before the long-promised Exodus (Genesis 15:13-14). There was a 400-year period of silence between the end of the Old Testament period and the New. On the third day—not the first—Jesus rose from the grave.

We also live before the fulfillment of some of God’s promises recorded in the Bible. In Revelation 22:3, Jesus promises that He is coming soon; we have been waiting for 2,000 years for His return. The world is still filled with suffering, where not every situation has yet been worked out for our good (Romans 8:28) and where God doesn’t yet wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). We long for a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13), but neither is here yet.

the In-Between, WHEN HOPE IS HARD

It is in this hard intermediate between the promise and its fulfillment that the waiting can make us weary. That weariness can make us question God and even make us take things into our own hands, as Abraham and Sarah did. We might cry out with David, as I have many times, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).

While we cannot answer how long, we do know that God will be faithful to everything He has promised us. There is no uncertainty when it comes to our hope when the object of our hope is God. In its entry on hope, the Lexham Bible Dictionary shows how our hope today is grounded in God’s faithfulness to His promises:

Biblical faith rests on the trustworthiness of God to keep His promises…Biblical hope avoids…subjectivity by being founded on something that provides a sufficient basis for confidence in its fulfillment: God and His redemptive acts as they culminate in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[1]

In the long waiting, God is faithful. He is the One who helps us defiantly hope even—or especially—if we can’t understand how He is working in the moment. Because of this, Christian hope is much greater than a decision we make by an act of our will. Instead, it is a way of life built upon a relationship with the living God. Martyn-Lloyd Jones puts it this way: “…the great thing about [Christian] hope is that it enables us to live.”[2] 

The faithfulness of God gives us hope that allows us to carry on even in the midst of pain and sorrow. Regardless of how impossible something seems, regardless of how many years something has taken, regardless of even our own failings, God is faithful. He will do everything that He has said He will do. And, thus, regardless of how long and deep a trial might seem, there is always a light next to us in the darkness: the ever-burning, everlasting, ever-bright faithfulness of our God.

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[1] Ben Craver, “Hope.” Lexham Bible Dictionary, (Lexham Press, 2016).

[2] Martyn-Lloyd Jones, “A Living Hope Of The Hereafter.” articles.ochristian.com/article527.shtml.