“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes: but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” - Jeremiah 17:7-8.
Hope is not like weather; it does not fluctuate. For if it does, it is not real hope. The idea of a constant, ever-dependable hope does not correlate to our day-to-day experience; yet many Christ followers often swing from feeling assured to struggling with despair. That hope as depicted in the Word of God doesn't seem to resemble much to the common man's experience must point to the fact that we have been mistaken about the nature of true hope.
Most of us are prone to treat hope as part of our wishful thinking. We wish for something we desire and we hope to acquire that which is our heart's desire. The outcome is predictable: we are elated when we get what we want; we are devastated when our desires are unfulfilled. This is false hope.
There is another common manifestation of hope that is even more severe. I have lost count of the number of times a Christian had been diagnosed with advanced cancer and he was told by well-meaning but misguided individuals that a) they had a prophetic word from the Lord that He would deliver the sick person from the cancer or b) it was not the Lord's will for His children to have cancer and therefore the sick person would be cured. What always happened was that the sick one and his family would hang on to that prophetic pronouncement like it was absolutely going to happen. Some ill-advised ones had even followed really bad advice to just “go by faith” without conventional medical therapy. None of those I knew had been delivered; they had all gone home to the Lord. Tragically a few had died in bitterness because the Lord had not miraculously healed them. Had God forsaken His children when they were critically ill and in need of His healing? God does not fulfill that which He has not promised. There is no place in the Bible that teaches it is the Lord's intent for His children to enjoy perpetual good health on this side of eternity. On the contrary, there are many places in His Word that reminds us that this is not our real home and that we are just passing through. To claim God's promise when He has not offered, to offer divine intervention without the Lord's authority are dangerous behaviours. This, too, is false hope.
What then is biblical hope? Biblical hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness. Examples are:
- That Abraham and Sarah would have a son even though they were very old.
- That God would send the Messiah through a virgin.
- That Jesus would die and rise again in three days.
- We will be with Him in a mansion with many rooms eternally.
- That Jesus will come again as our Judge.
If and when God has promised, our proper response is to believe and accept His promises. That is the basis of true hope. This is an unshakable hope that underpins the tree planted by the river in Jeremiah 17:7-8. With such hope, we will not fear the heat nor be anxious in a drought. My hope is real because my hope is in my Lord Jesus Christ.