Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. —Proverbs 13:12
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. —Romans 12:11–12
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. —Romans 15:13
Hope is a much stronger word in the Bible than it is for most of us today. The hope of deliverance and resurrection is based solidly on the promise of an almighty truth-telling, covenant-keeping God who never fails and is never thwarted, who always keeps his promises. Whenever we hope for what God has promised, we don’t wish for a possibility; we anticipate a certainty.
Researchers conducted a study on stress with Israeli soldiers. They assured one group that the march would end at a certain point but kept the other group in the dark. Although both groups marched an identical distance, those who didn’t know how long they would march registered a much higher level of stress. Why? Because they had no hope, no tangible assurance that the forced march would end. They felt helpless, wondering when, or if, they could ever rest.
Hope points to the light at the end of life’s tunnel. It not only makes the tunnel endurable, it fills the heart with anticipation of what’s at the other end: a world alive, fresh, beautiful, and without pain, suffering, or war. A world without disease, without accident, without tragedy. A world without dictators or madmen. A world ruled by the only One worthy of ruling (see Revelation 5:12). Though we don’t know exactly when, we do know for sure that either by our deaths or by Christ’s return, our suffering will end. From before the beginning, God drew the line in eternity’s sand to say for his children, “This much and no more, then endless joy.”
Suffering is God’s invitation to look to Jesus and look forward to Heaven. The answer to the problem of evil is a person and a place. Jesus is the person. Heaven is the place. No one else and nowhere else will satisfy.
I spent three hours with Carol King, a godly woman in her fifties who was dying of cancer. She’d read a few of my books and wanted to talk about Heaven. What struck me that day was the gift of laughter.
“I need some new clothes,” Carol said, “but why buy them? I used to get jumbo-sized shampoo, but now it’s a waste. I don’t even buy green bananas, because by the time they ripen I’ll probably be gone!” Carol said it not morbidly but with heartfelt peace. She anticipated a better world. Carol had already suffered great pain and had no romantic notions about death. But she faced death with quiet joy and contagious laughter.
I left, encouraged by a dying woman I’ll always consider my friend. She went to her Savior soon after. I look forward to laughing with Carol in the world where Jesus promised those now weeping, “You will laugh” (Luke 6:21).
My anticipation, by the way, is not wishful thinking. Since God is the Almighty promise keeper who never lies and knows the end from the beginning, I am looking forward to a certainty.
Lord, remind us that our calling is not to wish for the best but to trust the utter faithfulness of an all-powerful, promise-keeping God who always has a purpose and a plan, who ordained from eternity past every moment of time and all the ages yet to unfold. As your magnificent story of redemption moves to culmination, thank you not only for writing the chapters yet to come but for also revealing some of their content, enough that we may know the solid certainty of a New Heaven and New Earth over which the risen Christ will reign, with your resurrected children beside you, worshiping and serving you in a world forever free of curse and suffering and death. Thank you for this promise—not merely my wish but a blood-bought certainty.