Misplaced Hope

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:22–25

On Sunday, we started celebrating the Christmas season by focusing on the hope we have in Christ. The basic premise of the sermon was this: Everyone knows something is broken, fractured or wrong with our world (this is the groaning that Paul talks about in Romans 8)…that’s why we need hope. Politicians win campaigns by preaching this message. Products are sold by preaching that their product will change things for you. We buy in believing that one of them will actually make our lives better, that they will “hopefully” fix whatever is broken in our lives. But they eventually let us down because they are not capable of fixing what is broken. Only God is capable of such a thing.

As humans, we have the tendency to put our hope in things that are temporary and not eternal. Hoping in anything that is temporal is actually not hope at all; it is something called “misplaced hope.” Misplaced hope, when you boil it down, is really just wishful thinking. Misplaced hope says things like, “I hope the Baylor Bears will play for the BCS championship someday” or “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow” or “I hope I don’t get sick.” Misplaced hope can be a dangerous, destructive thing, while right-placed hope is a necessary, beautiful thing.

In his book called Experiencing God’s Story of Life and Hope, Scott Duvall outlines the difference between misplaced hope and right-placed, biblical hope. He says, “In the Bible hope is not the same thing as wishing for something…Unlike wishful thinking, biblical hope is based on the character of God. Nothing is more sure and certain. We know God’s character because of what he has done in the past and what he is doing in the present.”[1]

The more I think about the difference between misplaced hope and right-placed hope, the more I believe it all depends on whether you are putting your hope in the Giver or the gift. I would say misplaced hope has the tendency to let you down consistently while right-placed hope will never let you down, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. To know where you are, all you need to answer is one simple question: Are you hoping that God will give you what you desire or are you hoping to grow closer in your relationship with God? There’s a big difference. One approach will harden your heart towards God if you don’t get what you desire, and the other approach will say “it is well” no matter what happens. One approach can lead you down paths that God would have never wanted you to go down in the first place, while the other approach will allow you to examine and expose your motives for what they truly are. One approach will ultimately enslave you with fear, anxiety and worry, while the other approach will free you to live a life full of peace. So, what about you, are you putting your hope in a gift from God, or are you hoping to grow closer to the Giver?

[1] Pg. 190

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