The Bible is a book of many messages, and one of the strongest messages is the importance of having hope. St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, states that hope is one of the three most important qualities to have, along with faith and love.
Unfortunately, hope gets a bad rap in our age of self-reliance, logic, and science. But have you noticed that none of these things have all the answers? There are still hundreds of things that science cannot explain, including why we dream and why cats purr! And of course, science hasn’t moved an inch in determining why we are here on Earth.
I often hear people belittling hope, saying that it is a refuge for the lazy. They also say that hope is irrational. Well, take a step back and look at a few things around us. Humans are irrational. The stock market is irrational. Weather is irrational. Most things are irrational, actually. Many people in our 21st century age live a life where we think everything is controlled by reason. We buy our food from a shop, we buy our clothes from a store, and we think everything is provided in a mechanical and methodical manner; we have rules and laws that give us the impression that everything is governed by reason and science.
The fact is, life is fundamentally irrational. Most of life takes place outside of our control. There are no logical reasons for many of the things that happen. Don’t be fooled by the apparent rationality you see around you in daily suburban and city life. Most of life is irrational, and this includes hope. And that’s not a bad thing, because without hope, most of us would at some point see no reason to keep living.
Hence, I thought I would list a few verses that we can memorize and recall when we are in need of hope. Quoting from Scripture is always a powerful way to feel closer with God, and growing closer with God is really the whole point of life. As St. James says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). While there are hundreds of Bible verses that express hope, I thought I’d confine myself to verses that actually contain the word “hope,”, just to keep things simple. So here they are, with a little commentary on each:
But I will hope continually, And will yet praise thee more and more. — Psalm 71:14. In a psalm that is full of so many meaningful verses, this one stands out for linking hope with our duty to praise God. People often ask why we need to praise God, who is already all-wise and all-powerful and who clearly doesn’t need compliments. But the simple reason is that when we praise God, it fends off the Enemy and also reinforces our confidence in God’s ability to solve our problems. It also redirects our energy towards the positive. As Pastor Joel Osteen has said, “When you complain you remain, but when you praise you’ll be raised!” When you want to feel more hopeful, more confident in your hope, praise God.
I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. — Psalm 130:5. This verse illustrates the connection between waiting and hope. There is a difference between waiting-with-hope and simply waiting. While having to wait will always be part of our relationship with God, we can choose to wait optimistically, with the confident view that something great is coming our way. Note that the verse also mentions God’s “word” – his promises as well as his instructions. God’s main instructions to us are to love him with all our heart and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Regarding God’s promises, think of such verses as God giving us “beauty for these ashes” (Isaiah 61:3), that we shall “lend and not borrow” (Deuteronomy 15:6), that he has “plans to give us hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11), that the moment we pray, the tide of the battle turns (Psalm 56:9), that “no weapon formed against me shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17), that “the glory of the latter house will be greater than the former” (Haggai 2:9). And these are just a few!
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. — Psalm 42:11(NIV). The speaker rhetorically questions himself, as if to say, “You’re being sad, when you really shouldn’t be. God is here for you.” It is a verse of comfort, and again links hope to praising God.
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. — Romans 5:3-5 (NIV). Here, St. Paul outlines for us the process of becoming hopeful. Hope doesn’t follow immediately from suffering (though with practice, it can). We must learn to persevere, as persistence forms our character, which gives us the strength and inspiration to have hope. Once we have formed this character, the feeling of hope comes to us more naturally, and we do not need to renew it each time we encounter suffering.
But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? – Romans 8:24 (NIV). The verse that follows says, But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (NIV). Here, we see Paul’s logic. If we base all of our beliefs on only what we see, then we can never have hope. Remember the instance of Doubting Thomas in the Gospel of John (Chapter 20), where the apostle refuses to believe Jesus has risen until he can feel the wounds in Christ’s hands. Jesus says, “blessed are they who have not seen but have believed”. Hope, like faith, requires a leap. And yes, our answers and solutions don’t come right away.
For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God. – Psalm 38:15. The greatest fault of our age is the lack of listening. A successful businessman recently told me that MBA schools fail to teach listening, and that this is their greatest failure. What a comfort it is that God is everywhere and hears our prayers! The verse reminds us of God’s omnipresence, his ability to listen, and his ultimate knowledge of us. Jesus tells us in Luke 12:7 that “the very hairs on our head are numbered”. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and nothing that happens is a surprise to God.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1 (NIV). Also, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (KJV). Like the verse from Romans 8:24 above, this verse emphasizes the need to believe when you cannot see – to walk by faith, not by sight. And faith and hope work hand in hand.
Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee. — Psalm 33:22. I particularly like this verse because it mentions God’s mercy. While we may be hoping for an improvement in our health, a promotion at work, or an end to a certain trial or tribulation, ultimately what we are asking for is God’s mercy. Since God knows everything and is the almighty power in the universe, we are hoping that he will exercise this mercy to grant us what we have asked for. It is always in God’s power to give, but we must also remember that he knows what is best for us.
So never be ashamed to tap into this wonderful phenomenon called hope. Yes, hope does not always seem rational, but good things happen irrationally all the time. Our God is not “rational” by our standards, and he does not need a scientific reason to act. Nor should we expect one. As he says in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways my ways.” Start tapping into the irrationality of life, and expecting good things.
Hope doesn’t make you lazy. Hope means trying your best and knowing in your heart that God is sending you something better. As a priest once told me, Hope is the little girl with a smile on her face in the morning. In one of her poems, Emily Dickinson likens hope to a bird that sings “sweetest in the gale,” whose song gives us comfort when we are feeling cold or lost. And importantly, she adds that hope “never asked a crumb of me.”
Indeed, it costs us nothing to have hope – not even a crumb. God only asks that we believe in him and his wisdom and power, and that we trust that he knows best. Feel free to let your hopes soar, for there is no limit to God’s generosity or his mercy. You can feel safe when you put your hopes in God.
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out my new book, Passages for Inner Peace: Finding Joy and Comfort in the Psalms, available in paperback and e-book formats here.