Hope...or Hope So?

This morning I texted my brother, who lives outside Philadelphia, to console him over Penn State’s loss to arch rival Ohio State last night. For Penn State fans it was an agonizing one-point loss due to the fact that their team squandered a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter. My text conversation with my brother went like this: (Me) “Heartbreak Hotel”; (Him) “Yes. Any hopes of playoffs gone. Always next year!”; (Me) “That’s what hope is all about”; (Him) Thumbs up emoji.

Whereas my text conversation with my brother concluded with his selection of a conversation-ending emoji, my conversation with myself about what I had said did not. As I continued to reflect on our text exchange, I began to question my knee-jerk declaration of hope to him. Upon further pondering, I realized that while thoughts of next year bringing a new opportunity for Penn State to win a national title reflects a sense of “hope so”, in no way does it reflect a sense of genuine hope.

What is hope? It is interesting to see in an Online Dictionary that a contemporary definition of hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” In other words, our use of “hope” in our culture today is more akin to “hope so.” Interestingly, an archaic definition of hope is “a feeling of trust.” The archaic definition reflects more what genuine hope is than does the contemporary definition. Genuine hope is confident assurance of a future reality without any evidence of that reality in the present. Further, genuine hope is not only trust in the ability of someone or something to produce a desired result, but also trust that that someone or something will produce the desired result.

“Hope so” suffices in wishing for national championships, winning a lottery, making a hole in one, or closing a sale. That’s because as significant as each of those is, none is a matter of life and death. Where “hope so” does not suffice, is when it comes to the matter of life and death—to be specific, the matter of life after death.

Have you ever noticed that you and the people you know want to live forever? Have you ever noticed that you, and the people you know, sense deep down inside that you and they were made for something even better than what people get to experience here on earth? Why do you think that is? Ecclesiastes 3:11 says it is because God has “placed eternity” in our hearts. The sense of eternity in our hearts means we know deep down that we were created to live forever, and we know deep down that as good as life on earth is, there is something even more special awaiting us. The Bible calls it heaven. How foolish to hang our hats for life after death on “hope so.” How wise to hang our hats for life after death on genuine hope.

But where do we find such genuine hope regarding eternity? Look no further than the most famous verse in the Bible—John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” He, and He alone, is able to give confident assurance regarding the reality of heaven that one cannot yet see in this life.

Hope or hope so? On which are you hanging your hat?

Jerry Long

Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He may be reached at gotigers73@att.net.