By Tom Ellsworth
The candles on my birthday cakes in recent years have been reduced to a symbolic number (so as not to set off smoke alarms), but my grandkids still urge me to make a wish and blow them out. I comply. When I was their age, I remember hoping my wish would come true, but there was always considerable doubt in that hope.
We regularly misuse the word hope in our casual conversations. “I hope it doesn’t rain today.” “I hope we get to take that vacation we’ve always dreamed about.” “I hope the MRI results bring good news.” The hopeful statements all contain an element of doubt.
As a result, when we read the word hope in Scripture, we naturally assume an element of doubt in the writer’s assertion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hope as used in the New Testament is an assurance, a guarantee, a promise. And biblical hope isn’t based on something, it’s placed in Someone.
On the wall of our home study hangs a decorative inscription of Hebrews 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Is it any wonder that an anchor was one of the ancient symbols of the Christian faith? Epitaphs on believers’ tombs dating as far back as the end of the first century frequently displayed anchors alongside messages of hope. But we need to remember that a ship’s anchor is worthless unless it latches onto something firm. The anchor can bring stability in the storm only if it clings to a solid foundation. Hope, as an anchor, works the same way. It is worthless unless secured to something firm and lasting. Far too many people anchor their hopes to the shifting sands of humanistic ideologies.
If your hope is anchored to a Marxist worldview, you’ll find yourself drifting in godless waters.
If your hope is anchored to an evolutionary, random-chance beginning, you’ll find yourself floating through life without lasting purpose, wondering why you exist.
If your hope is anchored to mere religion, you’ll find yourself bobbing in a sea of doubt.
But if your hope is anchored to Jesus Christ, the “Rock of Ages,” your faith will remain strong despite the world’s influence. When life’s storms rage, it is our hope anchored in Christ that keeps us grounded. Hope anchored in Jesus brings confidence, changes the way we think, and gets us through life’s toughest challenges. Bereavement specialist Carol Kodish-Butt wrote, “Hope is not about everything turning out okay; it is about being okay no matter how things turn out.” <<ABBY, if you need to cut something to make this article fit on 2 pages, please cut the previous quote.>>
Why is hope so important?
Hope Squelches Fear
Where there is no hope, universal fear dominates. Our culture is handicapped by multiple fears, from hydrophobia to claustrophobia. We fear economic chaos, joblessness, social unrest, random shootings, open borders, teenage pregnancies, drug addiction, broken homes, unexpected disabilities, incurable diseases, and being left alone in this world without the one we love most. It’s no wonder we live in fear. But perhaps our fears are exaggerated. Many years ago, in his book Scared to Life, Douglas Rumford cited a study that explains why fears shouldn’t dominate our lives:
- 60 percent of our fears are totally unfounded.
- 20 percent of the things we fear are already behind us.
- 10 percent of the things we fear are so petty they don’t make any difference.
- 5 percent of the remaining 10 percent of fears are real, but we can’t do anything about them. Which means the remaining 5 percent are real fears that we can do something about. That means only 5 percent of our fears are truly justified.
Fear is no match for hope anchored in Christ!
Hope Anchors Our Future
The three great pillars of the Christian life are faith, hope, and love. All three are vital to our spiritual survival. Where there is no hope in the future, there is no life in the present.
Can you imagine living through heartbreaking moments without the assurance of eternal life? How do you face a terminal disease, a debilitating accident, or the open casket of a loved one without the guarantee of a new body and new life in heaven? When the dark fog of depression closes in around you, can you find your way out without the hope that the best is yet to be?
While slogging through the valley, look up to these biblical promises:
Jesus: “I’m going to prepare a place for you that where I am there you may be also” (John 14:2-3, author’s paraphrase).
Paul: “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, author’s paraphrase).
Psalmist: “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5, New Living Translation).
On a Sunday morning in November 2021, my mom passed out and struck her head. At the hospital, the doctor informed her she would not survive the brain bleed. We gathered in her hospital room on that Sunday afternoon. I must tell you that in 48 years of ministry, I’ve never experienced a more uplifting conversation about dying. There was a glint of expectation in Mom’s eyes, a smile on her lips, and hopefulness in her words.
“Son, I’m going to see the Lord and your dad!”
I knew she was sad to leave us—she said as much with a tear—but anticipation filled her with a childlike, unspeakable joy. Her expectation was the culmination of 90 years of loving God and walking faithfully with him. Mom spent nine decades showing me how to live in hope and concluded her lifelong lesson by showing me how to die in hope.
May that kind of hope be a firm and secure anchor for your soul!
Tom Ellsworth is in his fourth interim ministry since retiring in 2020 after serving 40 years as preaching minister with Sherwood Oaks Christian Church in Bloomington, Indiana. He also serves in several other Christian Church ministries.