In this week’s Bible study, we will reflect on the meaning of biblical hope and what it means to hope during times of hopelessness.
As we all continue to endure the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s becoming more difficult to be optimistic that circumstances will change for the better anytime soon. Some communities may begin to return to a new normal, but it’s clear that life won’t be going back to the way it was for some time. These are challenging times to be an optimist.
But the biblical story invites us into a different way of seeing human history, from a vantage point of hope. In the Bible, hope is about waiting, not for circumstances to change but for God himself. God’s character and his promises to rescue and restore our world are the only things that endure from generation to generation. And so the only option we’re left with in times of uncertainty is to cultivate the difficult virtue of patient hope in God’s promises.
Many people through all the history of humanity have spent their lives searching for a “resting place”; sometimes they seek to find rest in something physical, and sometimes they try to find rest in a concept.
In the Psalms, David meditates on how, in times of distress and instability, God himself is the only source of hope and rest. Whatever people may be plotting against him, their plans are ultimately temporary and transient. In contrast, God is likened to an unshakable rock to whom David can call upon in his pain and anxiety. So David chooses to simply wait for God to answer with loyal love.
Sometimes our distress and anxiety is caused by tragic circumstances that bring loss or humiliation. It is hard not to blame God, or at least get frustrated at him. The poet here grieves over the fact that God has allowed such pain to enter his life, yet he doesn’t abandon hope. Rather, he chooses to wait patiently in anticipation for God to answer with loyal love. He trusts that God’s apparent absence is not permanent but temporary.
Paul invites followers of Jesus to see their own suffering and hardship as one expression of the groaning of all creation over death and decay. But for Paul, the resurrection of Jesus as king of the new creation means that all creation will one day be freed and restored. It is only by patient waiting and endurance that this hope becomes life-giving as we wait for the redemption of all creation.