If I have hope, I can make another day. Yet, there are times when all the challenges makes one wonder if it is all worth it.
I remember meeting some inner city young men in New Orleans who had lost all hope. They moved zombie-like from one place to the next. The lights had gone out in their eyes. They were already among the living dead.
That is what we can become without hope. Notice how the apostle Paul speaks of hope:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:1–5 NIV)
We often think of hope as the natural state of things—and so it should be. However, Paul treats hope as it if is a virtue that one develops. Though Paul is confident that Christians are justified—made right before God, he also speaks of suffering and perseverance as precursors to hope.
We both rejoice in the hope of the glory of God and our sufferings. The hope of God’s glory points to our future union with God while sufferings describes some of our present realities. However, in the space between glory and sufferings, God is at work shaping us into virtuous people. According to this text, God’s formula for character development follows this path:
Suffering >>> Perseverance >>> Character >>> Hope
There is some logic to this, even if it not a route any of us would choose naturally. There is something about suffering that makes us more aware of our finite nature and that we need God. Perseverance, or getting through a tough time, increases our awareness of God and that with God’s help we can survive. This confidence in God shows in the way we carry ourselves as people of integrity—having remained true against the odds. Through this process, then, God grows hope within us.
Ultimately, hope involves a connection to the Holy Spirit through whom God pours his love into our lives. Where the Holy Spirit is, there is always hope.