What makes human beings different from beasts? Both eat, need rest and procreate. Like beasts, human beings seek out a home, look out for their young and in some cases, live in communities. There are many other similarities, so it’s easy to see why Evolutionists claim that human beings evolved from lower primates. That said, on closer observation, there are certain traits which separate us. One of these traits is hope.
Hope looks beyond the present. It gives us an expectation that the things we desire will happen. Often, this is all we have to hang onto in hard times. Beasts, however, do not hope. They are all about the present, incapable of contemplating the future. Unlike beasts, humans desire for a better future. We fight for freedom, justice, love and so on because they are things we desire and hope for. Ultimately, hope gives us a reason to live, but when what we hope for seems out of reach, despair usually sets in. When this happens, life can seem hollow and worthless.
The phrase “it’s the hope that kills you” is a popular expression we all relate to because hope carries with it a degree of vulnerability and anxiety. This is because of the possibility that the thing we are hoping for may never happen. Have you ever wanted something so badly that the thought of never getting it was unthinkable? In those moments, we are anxious and vulnerable. Those are the times where we are tempted to think, “…maybe it is better not to hope” because the disappointment would be unbearable.
Many people reading this are already accustomed to disappointment. Whether it is others not keeping their word or being dealt a terrible hand by life, disappointment seems to be a reality of growing up. However, as children, this wasn’t always the case. Unhindered by what we adults refer to as the realities of life, children approach life with an infectious excitement and hope. For instance, those who were fortunate enough to receive the presents they wanted at Christmas can recall the anticipation and excitement as Christmas Day approached. You knew your parents were going to come good on their promise to get you that toy you’ve been waiting for, for what seemed like a lifetime.
Today, I find that one of my major struggles with hope is not knowing when my desire will be met. As a child, you could circle Christmas Day on the calendar and countdown to the D-Day with confidence but life is not that straightforward as an adult. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says something we can all agree with: “there is a time for everything” [Ecclesiastes 3:1], he then goes on to pen some lovely poetry about the seasons of life [Ecclesiastes 3:2-8] but he then makes a statement worth pondering: “He[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” [Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV].
I reflect on this verse as I grapple with the implications of having hope despite my present circumstances. It tells me that there an appointed time for everything to be made beautiful. Everything includes the unfulfilled desires I am holding out hope for but it also applies to that mother holding out hope for healing as she cares for her terminally ill child. It is true for that little boy who is growing up without a father and it is also true for you, regardless of your situation. My disappointment arises because I have a schedule in mind within which I expect God to act, but God doesn’t work to my timetable, He has His own. Knowing this, will I trust and patiently wait for God’s time or will I let my disappointments drive me to despair?
Solomon affirms that even my ability to hope is God-given since God has put eternity in my heart. Surely, He hasn’t given me a desire to leave it unfulfilled, that isn’t consistent with His character. However, that verse crucially reminds us that we cannot fully understand why God acts the way He does [see also Isaiah 55:8-9]. The question for me is: “Can I trust that when God chooses to act, it will be the best possible time?” After all, won’t a perfect God do all things perfectly? I grew up hearing “God’s time is best” but I must confess that like Mary and Martha I often say to Jesus: “You are too late, You should have done something sooner” [John 11:1-44]. The Bible tells us of heroes of faith who didn’t have their desires fulfilled in their lifetime [Hebrews 11:39] but as we look back at what God has done, can we say He short-changed them?
The kingdom of God came with Jesus but that kingdom hasn’t taken over fully yet. Until it does, there will be things in this world that we are dissatisfied with. Those things will prompt us to desire better. Some of those desires will sadly not be met in our lifetime but God has promised a day when everything we could possibly hope for will be ours. That is the Christian hope. However, in the interim, another question arises; “what do I do as I wait on God?” My answer: “share your story”. Someone once said to me that “God is economical with the experiences He allows us to go through”. By that, she meant God can use my story to encourage others. Just as the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses and others encourage me today, God can use my story to encourage others waiting on Him.