I hope the Phillies will win the ball game. I hope it doesn’t rain tonight. I hope I have enough money to pay the mortgage. I hope my medical tests are negative. I hope my kids live healthy, productive lives. Hope is a well-used word. But do we really understand what it means to hope? And in what do we hope? In what should we hope?
Octavius Winslow has a chapter about hope in his book, “Soul Heights and Soul Depths”. The following passage is a beautifully written passage defining false hope…and true hope:
Take from the sufferer the hope of relief, from the sick the hope of life, from the exile the hope of return, from the captive the hope of release, from the condemned the hope of reprieve, and you have quenched the last spark of life, have dashed from the lips the last drop of comfort, shading the entire scenery of existence with the heaviest clouds of despair and woe. It is hope—the first true offspring of reason, the recognition of purer intelligence—that rocks the cradle of suffering infancy, paints its golden tinge upon the dismal cell of the prisoner, lulls to balmy repose the couch of languor, sits proudly upon the warrior’s crest, and visits alike, faithfully and kindly, the poor man’s hut as the rich man’s palace.
But what is all human hope, as to its nature and object, but a phantom and a dream as the foam on the crest of the billow, the shadow on the mountain’s brow—unsubstantial and fleeting? Yet, how does the soul cling to it! How do men, looking only to the things that are seen and temporal, cling to human hopes, pursuing a bubble, building upon a shadow, grasping the wind! How unreal, unsatisfying, and evanescent the hope that rests in the creature, that is built on the world, that clings to wealth and honor and life! All for a while looks true and bright—hope investing the present and painting the future with its most gorgeous and attractive hues. But, adversity comes, and reverse comes, and sickness comes, and death comes, and eternity comes, and then the sky is darkened, and the flowers droop, and the music is hushed, and all human hopes one by one grow dim and expire as the day fades into evening, and the evening deepens into night.
Oh the folly of building the hope of happiness below God, out of Christ, and this side of Heaven! Chase no longer the phantom, the dream, the shadow of human hope, of earth-born good; but, acquaint your self with God, seek Christ, and fix your thoughts, your affections, your whole being, upon the world of stern and solemn reality towards which time is rapidly speeding you. “This is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”
We now turn to the Christian’s hope—the only true, substantial, and living hope of the soul. How truly and impressively the passage under consideration defines this hope. “Let Israel hope in the Lord”—not in the creature, not in himself, not in his own righteousness—but, “let him HOPE IN THE LORD.” There is everything in God to inspire and encourage hope. Oh, it is a marvelous truth—a truth, had it not been divinely revealed, the mind could not have discovered, nor the heart have believed it that, the soul of man, lost in sin, might again hope in God! But examine the foundation of this hope, and all wonder ceases. Christ is the Foundation, the Object, and the End of the believing sinner’s hope. “The Lord Jesus Christ, who is our hope.” There is but one divinely revealed and assured hope of heaven, and it centers wholly and exclusively in the Savior of sinners. The Atonement of Christ touches the soul, and meets its case at every point. There could be no hope of the sinner’s pardon and justification consistently with Divine Justice, Holiness, and Truth apart from the obedience, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Winslow, Octavius (2010-06-17). Soul Heights and Soul Depths. Unknown. Kindle Edition.