We need to know there is something to look forward to. There is something better. There is a real hope.
I recall as if it were yesterday; the New Testament professor I had in college telling us the background and context of Paul’s use of the Greek word ελπίδα (elpida), commonly translated as hope. What blew me away, though, was how trivial our use of this word is in modern American English – and by extension how small our idea of hope has become.
We used to say things like, “I hope traffic isn’t too bad on the way to the game,” or “I hope they don’t run out of ribs before we get there.” Now we might say, “I hope my coronavirus check hits soon!” We might go a little deeper and say, “I hope they find a vaccine,” or “I hope I can make it through this.” But what I hear in all these is something more like our westernized idea of “wishing.” It’s somewhere in the ballpark of rubbing the genie’s magic bottle and expressing our preferred reality without any real expectation about whether it will come true or not.
That’s not what Paul was talking about. That’s not the kind of “hope” God’s people have to settle for. No, our professor explained, a better translation for this word was probably something more like “expectant waiting.”
I was rocked. Moved. Immediately obsessed with this concept.
Could it be possible that the real depth of hope with God was more a cousin to words like faith and truth than to wishing or dreaming? If true, the implications are massive. We don’t have the ability to predict the future. But there’s a way in which we can not only think about our history to know something of God, but can also find God in the present.
In the sunrise. In the green grass. In the smile of a family member, the laughter of a child. God’s not fully there, of course, but God is there, to be sure. Each of these small miracles should kindle our hope – that expectant waiting that there is more because we’ve just experienced something very real and true. It should kindle in us a vision, like a delicious meal remembered, of deep joy, peace and love. This love can start now, this moment, in this life. It will be fulfilled all the more as we draw nearer and nearer to God.
Today, I hope you experience God. I expect you will.
Grace and Peace,