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Cultivating Virtue by Loving Jesus: Hope

Murphy’s Law is simple. If anything can go wrong, it will. If your toddler can climb onto the table and drink the rest of your coffee making him a caffeinated terror for the next four hours, he will. If you can break your freshly sharpened pencil lead three times in a row, you will. If you can forget everything else you were going to say — where was I going with this?

Pessimists are firm believers in Murphy’s Law, and they almost deserve it. Two more famous pessimists in literature are Eeyore and Puddleglum. When first introduced to Puddleglum, he remarks, “Puddleglum’s my name. But it doesn’t matter if you forget it.” Eeyore’s experience isn’t much better. “‘I might have known,’ said Eeyore. ‘After all, one can’t complain. I have my friends. Somebody spoke to me only yesterday. And was it last week or the week before that Rabbit bumped into me and said ‘Bother!’. The Social Round. Always something going on.’” Both of these characters, as with all pessimists, look at any situation and expect it to get worse. They lack hope.

Instead, hope is a future expectation of good, but this isn’t a vague or glib optimism. This hope is grounded in reality. 1 Peter 1 shows us the nature of hope. Believers are born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus (vs. 3), to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and being kept by God (vs 4). This hope rejoices (vs 6, 8), endures (vs 7), and will receive its expected end (vs 9).

Hope is the sister virtue to faith. While faith looks at an object and trusts that object in the present, hope looks to the future. Hope is the future eye of faith that expects the yet unseen fullness of joy. This hope is secured by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, because the worst has already happened. The Son of God was beaten, scourged, and hung on a tree to slowly die of asphyxiation and blood-loss. He was left alone, back ripped to shreds, and then his cold body was placed in a cold tomb, and all his followers scattered.

But it was not possible that death should hold him, so on the third day God raised Him up to new life. His heart began to beat again, driving blood throughout His previously lifeless body. He walked out of the tomb on the first day of the week as a new creation, and promises the same to all who hope in him. After the pattern of his resurrection, we will be raised.

This is the comedy of the universe. The last enemy has been de-fanged and stripped of its power (1 Cor 15:54-55), and those who lived in fear of death their whole lives will no longer fear that devouring dragon (Heb 3:14-15). We see this pattern written in the script of the cosmos. Trees decay and lose their leaves in Fall to bud again in the Spring. We sleep each night to rise again in the morning. Bodies are sown in the ground as seeds that will burst out in resurrection life. The most feeble, foolish, sin-crushed soul who trusts in Jesus for that hope will be raised.

In the meantime, we wait. Life is pain. Everyone who lives will suffer in some way — sickness, betrayal, abandonment, weakness, death. This is the lot of humanity. Is it worth it? There are two responses: curse God and die or trust Him. Hope reminds us that God has given us life and breath — existence. He has poured out innumerable good gifts into our lives when we didn’t even have to exist. More than that, He has given His own Son; what could He possibly be holding back (cf. Rom 8:32)? Hope reminds us that this often bitter existence is worth it, because we have God.

Hope means joy. Christian’s don’t get to act like Eeyore or Puddleglum. “Woe is me. My life is so awful.” We have God! Temporary trials are not even worth comparing with joy that comes from knowing God — from being known by God. This is why the apostles frequently remind Christians to rejoice in trials, because through them all, we have God. This is what it means to be more than conquerers. Even the most difficult, crippling trial becomes our servant to purify our everlasting joy in God.

Hope should lead to fearlessness. The worst thing imaginable for a mere, material existence is death, but Jesus has robbed even that final enemy of its power. As Peter reminds women, those who hope in God do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Pet 3:5-6). What will we fear? Sickness? Mockery? Pain? Death!? Peter has already told us, our inheritance cannot be touched by any of these things and they are God’s purifiers for our eternal good (1 Peter 1:3-12). This is true hope.

The counterpoint to Eeyore and Puddleglum is King Lune. “For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.” Who will laugh the loudest in the face of famine? Who refuse to be cynical and give in to nihilism? Hope will not put us to shame.