by Preston Foster
By Preston Foster, October 2, 2013
“I hope so” sounds like minimalist optimism. It is the sighing mantra of a pessimist struggling to be optimistic. Rarely, if ever, does the phrase inspire the confidence of the hearer. “I hope so” sounds like a politician (or a parent, for that matter) trying not to make a commitment, while leaving room to manage disappointment. Interpreted this way, hope depends as much on luck as on faith. This form of hope usually accompanies nearly-exhausted faith.
My personal flavor of self-righteousness led me into this nagging problem with the notion of “hope.” My judgmental reflexes caused me to (wrongly) interpret “hope” as a weaker, less-developed form of faith. If my faith were sufficient, I thought, I would have climbed past hope to the more demanding levels of confidence and expectation. I conceived hope as the embryonic stage of faith. Why are we encouraged to be hopeful if hope is so underdeveloped?
My dad has an answer for such conundrums. “Just keep on living,” he says, implying that the answer will reveal itself (to the discerning) in time.
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).
I simply had it backward. Hope doesn’t precede faith. Hope is a product of faith (Titus 3:7). Hope is faith with direction and intentionality. It is a directed optimism, based on a specific belief.
For believers, faith enables patience, which builds character and produces hope (Romans 5:2-5). Hope allows believers to live—happily—in the midst of what is, at times, a present and despairing reality. Our faith is in Christ. This gives us hope.
Just what does that mean? Just how far does that hope extend?
For many of us, hope is put to the test at funerals. Our beliefs or doubts are revealed when we, in real time, contemplate what is next for our lost loved one—and, eventually, for ourselves. Do we believe in resurrection as it is outlined in the Bible (1 Thessalonians 4, John 11:25, Acts 26:8, 1 Corinthians 9:1, Revelation 20:4-6)? How confident are we that we will one day see our loved ones and live eternally with God? Do we (Christian believers) believe the Bible literally on this issue, or is there a postmodern construct that dilutes this hope (1 Corinthians 15:17)?
I believe that the Bible is true. Ultimately. I believe that, if I die, I will be resurrected and live eternally with God.
I certainly hope so.