What does the Bible say about hope?

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Sun shining through a flower's petals as a sign of God's hope
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Do you find hope difficult?  There are so many disappointments all around us, that hope seems to be an impossible thing to grasp.  In our modern-day world of immediate gratification and consumerism, if what we want doesn’t happen the way we would like, or in our own timing, we move on.  The next time something comes up, we trust less, expect less.

The problem is, people will fail us every time.  When we pray for something to happen, God may respond, but in the end, He still gives His people free will to choose for themselves.  If we are praying for a crumbling marriage, or for someone’s heart to be softened, God may respond by speaking into that person’s soul; however, it is still up to that person to respond to His voice.

When people fail, hope is hard.  It is hard to see how God can fix an impossible situation.  But God is bigger than our own perspective.  A rock will seem like a mountain to an ant, but for a human it is just something to kick out of the way.  God is greater than any mountain that comes our way, He is big enough to see the other side after all.

Bible Verses About Hope

In trying to understand this thing called hope, and in trying to battle a feeling of hopelessness, there is only one place to turn.  It is important to look to what God says about hope in the Bible.

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What is hope?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, or a feeling of trust”.  Let’s take a look at how the definition of hope might look similar or different coming from God.

Old Testament Hope

Jeremiah’s Hope

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.   

Jeremiah 29:11
What is hope?  Biblical blog post - hands raised releasing a dove

This is a verse that is commonly used among those looking for encouragement or hope.  It seems that this would be a good promise to hold onto in times of distress, and it is.  But let’s first make sure we understand the full context of the promise before we claim it as our own.

As a bit of background, this is a conversation between Jeremiah and the Israelite exiles in Babylon.  Those in Babylon were struggling to accept their situation in the strange land and were in turn looking to false prophets to guide their way.  In this passage, Jeremiah is reminding the people of the prophecy from God that would not leave them away from home forever.

I recently bought myself the Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible, so I decided to look up the meaning of the word “hope” used in this verse.  According to the definition, the original Hebrew word used here is achariyth, meaning:  the last or end, posterity (all future generations of people), or destiny.

God was using Jeremiah to remind His people to sit tight, that He was in control, and had already promised that there was an end in His sight from their current predicament for future generations.  Even though this was a very specific promise to a very specific group of people, this does give us insight into God’s character. 

  • He is a God who makes promises and keeps them.
  • He is a God who doesn’t leave His people.
  • He is a God with a plan.

For this reason, God’s people in the Old Testament put their hope in Him.  He showed them over and over again, that they could trust in His goodness.  He kept His promises, and never failed.

Even the hopeful struggle with hope

After the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was distraught.  The beloved city, the home of God’s temple and dwelling place, was gone.  It would be easy to lose oneself in despair and hopelessness.  Except God is a God that cannot be destroyed.  He is a God who cannot be undone.  So, Jeremiah chose to hope.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
  “therefore I will hope in him.”   

Lamentations 3:22-24

Micah’s Hope

As a bit of background on the prophet Micah, he was sent by God to the southern kingdom of Judah to speak messages of judgement, discipline, and hope to a people under the reign of corrupt leadership.  Micah must have felt destitute after time and again his words fell on deaf ears.  And yet, he uttered these words of patient hope, trusting in a God who delivers on His promises.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord;  
I will wait for the God of my salvation; 
my God will hear me.   

Micah 7:7

According to my Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible, the original Hebrew word for “wait” in this verse is yachal, meaning “to be patient, to hope, to linger, or to be pained”.

Job’s Hope

If you aren’t familiar with the story of Job, it is one of loss and despair, but also of faith and redemption.  Job was a faithful man with great success, a beautiful family, and significant wealth.  Out of contest, God grants Satan the permission to attack and test Job’s faith by whatever means necessary (apart from death).  So, Satan does just that.  Job loses his family, his property and wealth, and his health.  His friends told him to give up, and his own wife said that he should curse God and die! 

Bible verses about hope - Woman with hands over heart looking to God

And yet, through all the muck and seeming hopelessness, Job did not sin.  He did not turn away from God.  He trusted in God’s promise.  And he had hope beyond a doubt that, regardless of what happened to him here on earth, he would stand before God one day and see Him face to face.

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!    

Job 19:25-27

Job placed his hope in the One who could see him through, not in earthly possessions or the people who failed him.

God’s promise of hope

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.   

Isaiah 7:14

Throughout the Old Testament, God weaves a tapestry of hope, pointing to a day when all will be redeemed.  While His people were more concerned with what their own predicament was, He was busy laying promises of a hope to come.  He could see far beyond the mountain in their path, He knew the plans He had for them.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.   

Isaiah 53:5

New Testament Hope

Jesus was the culmination of hope in the Old Testament.  Everything God did, was to point to the coming of His Son, and the redemption He would bring for all His people.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.   

Romans 15:4

According to the Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible, the original Greek word used here was elpis, a noun meaning “a confident expectation of good”.  This is the word used most often for hope in the New Testament.  Who else can we be confident in than the One who’s ability exceeds all else? 

Hope in Jesus

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.   

1 Peter 1:3-4

The consequence of sin is true death, not the death of our earthly bodies and lives, but the death that brings eternal separation from God our Father.  In order to save us from that eternal death, God sent His Son to atone for our sins in our place.  Because we have a “confident expectation of good” in Christ, we can have faith in our future.

What is even better, is that it doesn’t stop there.  Jesus conquered the grave and could not be defeated by that death.  He is alive and has a plan to return to earth one day to draw those who are His to Himself for all eternity.  This is where are hope lies.  We are confident in our expectation of His good.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action and being sober minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.   

1 Peter 1:13

So, we must be watchful and patient in our hope.  When all else fails around us, we can trust that what He says is true, and there is hope in that.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.   

Hebrews 10:23
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.   

Romans 15:13

When hope is a struggle

Hope isn’t always super easy to hang on to.  Sometimes a lack of a belief makes it hard.  After all, how do you have hope when you don’t trust or believe in the One who is meant to fulfill your expectation of good? 

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.   

Romans 8:24-25

To this, I can only say that the more you get to know Him, the easier it will be to trust in who He is.  I cannot emphasis enough how important it is to read the Bible.  You cannot get to know someone you are not willing to listen to.  And you cannot trust someone you do not know.

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Battling hopelessness - Bible verses about hope - black and white photo of a wrought iron gate

Do not fall back merely on your own conclusions of who He is, or on another opinion you may have heard.  Pray, and ask for His insight.  Tell Him you want to learn to trust Him, that you want to have hope in Him.  He is waiting to grant these requests coming from an open heart.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.   

Psalm 37:4-5
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.   

1 John 5:13-15

Be careful to not place your hope in those things which are fleeting such as wealth, or prosperity.  People will disappoint, possessions will be lost, and governments will fail.  There is only One who will withstand it all.  There is only One in whom you can have a true “confident expectation of good”.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.   

1 Timothy 6:17
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