2313) Infinite Hope (part two of two)

We Must Accept Finite Disappointment But Never Lose Infinite Hope ...

     (…continued)  The progression Paul talks about is not automatic.  Suffering does not always lead to perseverance and then character and then to hope.  Suffering can also lead to despair, like for Carl; or to denial, like for Dan.  Suffering doesn’t always lead to hope.  But if in our suffering we look to God, we can be led to a true and certain hope.

     We can be happy with or without faith; if all you want is happiness.  But it will be an unreliable and short-lived happiness.  If our happiness and well-being is based on anything but God it will, in the end (or before), be surely disappointed.  Carl at age 33 had already experienced some happiness.  He had, for a time, experienced the happiness and fulfillment of getting everything he ever wanted; but it did not satisfy him.  His happiness was now gone and he was without hope.  Dan was filled with hope, but it was a false hope, and in a few weeks that hope failed him.  Cleo, on the other hand, had a deeper hope, a hope described by Paul in Romans 5:5:  “And this hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.”

     That hope is an eternal hope, not limited to the confines of the few brief and uncertain years we get in this life.  Cleo did not have to build up a false hope by denying the reality of her condition.  Her hope was based on her faith that she would live again– that she would fall asleep here, and wake up with God in a new and wonderful life.  Her hope was not tied up in the externals of life, like it was for Carl.  She did not have nearly as much going for her here as Carl, but what she had made her happy.  She was sad to leave her husband and the retirement life they had worked for and planned on.  But her deepest  hope was not bound up in that.  Her deepest hope was in God, and she knew that even though she was missing out on a few years here, in God’s home all would be restored to her forever.  This is the hope that Paul says “does not disappoint us.”

     Sometimes, as the verse implies, it is only suffering that will bring us to that hope.  There is in all of us a sinful pride that does not want to depend on anyone or anything else.  Such pride can keep us away from God for a long time.  In fact, it is often the case that the more God blesses us with health and strength and wealth, the more we may think we are able to depend on themselves alone.  But then comes suffering and we have to start looking around for help.  When no other help is to be found, we might then start looking again at the hope that God offers.

     Many people will not turn to God unless there is no other hope.  Even the great and wise Abraham Lincoln had to learn this the hard way.  In his early life he was not a praying man and had little time for God.  In fact, when he was young and ran for political office for the first time, he was accused of being an infidel and an unbeliever and one who scoffed at religion.  But later in life he was overwhelmed with suffering, both as the president of a nation at war with itself, and, in his personal life.  Two of his sons died in childhood and his wife struggled with mental illness.  When his own strength and ability failed him, Lincoln told a friend, “I have been driven many times upon my knees in prayer by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”  As the Bible says, suffering can lead to hope.

     An old Arab proverb says, “All sunshine makes a desert.”  Always getting everything you want on the outside can leave you empty on the inside, lacking what is most important in life.  Suffering can bring you back to God.  Suffering can produce perseverance, perseverance can produce character, and character can produce that hope that will not disappoint us.

     Learn to look at all of your sufferings in this life, large and small, as opportunities to lead you to a deeper trust in God, so that you may have that eternal hope.


Romans 5:1-5  —  Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and this hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

Romans 8:18  —  I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

II Corinthians 4:16a…17-18  —  So we do not lose heart…  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.


Dear Lord, help us to get our perspective right so that we may see what matters most, and put our faith, trust, and hope in you alone.  Amen.