Without Hope, There is Despair

“And these three remain: faith, hope, and love...”

Why is hope listed as one of the three most important qualities that are needed in a believer's life? I understand why faith is important; faith in God and Christ's death on the cross is required for salvation. I also understand the importance of love; it is the greatest commandment to love God and others. But I always wondered why hope was in the middle of faith and love. What's so vital about hope, that without it, we fail to thrive?

First I would like to define what hope is: “a favorable and confident expectation; it has to do with the unseen and the future; the happy anticipation of good.” (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary) God is the author of hope, and He is the one who gives it:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NASB)

“I'm a realist,” my husband said. “Hope only leads to disappointment.” Lately I've noticed my husband displaying all the signs of despair, after an agonizingly long trial that he has handled with grace and the patience of Job. God never rebuked Job for feeling despair over his unjust treatment and loss. God called him righteous. And when Elijah was in despair, God took care of him and encouraged him. He was never rebuked for feeling despair, since he had served God faithfully and just had nothing left. Both Job and Elijah had given their all. They were completely wiped out.

As a wife, you have the power to help your husband to feel hope again. Unlike Job's wife who told him to curse God and die, you can show your husband that he can still put his hope in God, who controls all things. When I first saw despair in my husband, I said, “I'm excited about what God is doing here. He never wastes pain, but turns it around into something beautiful. Just wait and see what God will do. It will be fabulous, whatever it is, better than we can imagine.”

The hope in my face transferred to my husband's face, and he actually smiled. God breathed hope back into him through my excited face. He was back to his normal self, albeit more haggard, but he was able to joke around and be the great husband and father that he has always been. I was amazed at how much power wives have to spiritually encourage their husbands.

Searching desperately though the Word of God, I was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of Scriptures that included the word “hope,” and how many of them command us to hope in God. If you put your hope in other people, those people will fail you because no one is perfect, even if they love you and want to do everything right. If you put your hope in God, you will never be disappointed. You might be disappointed that things don't go your way, but God's way is always superior and results in greater holiness.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” (Psalm 42:5 NASB)

This Scripture holds the keys to overcoming despair and grabbing hold of hope:

  1. We are commanded to hope in God. To obey this command is a strength, not a weakness.
  2. Later we will praise God for the good that He did in the future. Therefore, since a good future is secure because God promises good from all that happens to us, praise will come out of our mouth after the fact. So we might as well praise Him before the fact, since we know that He will do it. The ability to do this is called faith.
  3. His presence is what will help us to overcome despair.
My favorite verses of hope happen in the midst of Jeremiah's despair in the bottom of a dark, muddy pit while starving to death:

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23 NASB)