I recently asked a burdened believer what I could do to help. “Just give us hope!” came the reply. All of us struggle with unrealized desires, some of which deeply burden the soul. Perhaps those that are most difficult are those in which there is no evident sin standing between us and our desire. Physically ill and disabled bodies ache as the soul groans: “Why? How long?” Young people, both men and women, say: “I thought I’d be married by now.” Couples cry out: “When will God give us children?” The unemployed ask: “Why won’t you give me work, God, to support my family?”
To these questions, there is no easy answer, but the Lord does give us certain hope. Wilhelmus `a Brakel writes:
“The nature of hope consists in a sure expectation. Hope is not the equivalent of possession; whatever one possesses, one cannot hope for. ‘Hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doeth he yet hope for?’ (Rom. 8:24). Hope expects and anticipates that which has not been observed as yet, is not yet present, but which is yet to come. ‘But if we hope for what we see not, then do we with patience wait for it’ (Rom. 8:25).”
And how is hope different than faith?:
“Hope focuses upon future benefits. Faith and hope both ascertain the reality of the matter. Faith focuses upon future benefits as much as hope does. They differ, however, in that faith represents these future benefits as if they are a present reality. ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (Heb. 11:1). Hope, however, postpones the matter and considers it as yet having to come to pass…The person who exercises hope says, ‘It is true, I do not have it as yet, but I shall have it.’”
Does that hope only apply to future glory? Christians know that their ultimate hope is in God. Psalm 42:5 commands us to “Hope in God.” We know that we have “hope in the promise made by God to our fathers” (Act. 26:6), and the “hope of salvation” (1Th. 5:8). But what about these unrealized desires for temporal objects or states God has said are good?
In a lengthy but rich passage, `a Brakel continues:
“Question: Man comes into many situations in which his temporal welfare is contingent upon the outcome of such situations. This engenders a desire that he may succeed according to his objective, as well as a fear for an evil outcome. How must he conduct himself as far as hope is concerned?
Answer: Both the desire and the fear are natural; he must not suppress them, but rather sanctify them. He must hope in God’s general promise of help and care, surely and quietly rely upon this, and expect its fulfillment with certainty.
If he intends to involve himself in a manner enjoined by God, he will thus have freedom to ask God for a good result and make his desire known to God by prayer and supplication. In the use of the means there will be a lively sense of dependence upon God and an encouragement regarding the outcome, leaning toward that which is desired. This is particularly true if God gives him a special measure of freedom in believing and earnestness in prayer – and if, while trusting in and enjoying the nearness of God, he may use the means in the strength of God. This also occurs if God manifests Himself in an extraordinary manner and gives him a strong confidence that the matter will have such a desired outcome. I repeat, this is so when God does this, rather than he himself; that is, by being encouraged by either the probable outcome, or by the grace enabling him to pray and be dependent on God.
It is then that the matter could miscarry. Since, however, we do not have specific promises for specific temporal circumstances, we can also not expect to have a certain expectation that, apart from extraordinary revelation of God, this specific matter will have the outcome aimed for and desired. We can, however, be sure of this: Regardless of what the outcome may be, it will be blessed and be to our best advantage. If it turns out according to our desire, it will be a blessing. If it turns out differently, it will be much more advantageous and blessed than if our objective had been achieved. For, relative to God’s children all things must work together for good (Rom. 8:28).
We must see to it that we are not bent on having our own way – as if we could not be blessed unless we would receive precisely that matter. We must be active to deny our own desire, to acquiesce in the wisdom and goodness of God, and to be satisfied with and delight in the general promises of God: He careth for thee; He will make it well; He will not forsake you. If God acts according to our wishes, this will cause joyous gratitude; if not, we must be satisfied with the will of God, learn to esteem that which is of the world as being of no value, and learn to live out of the hand of God. Be therefore on guard against unbelief and fretfulness. This is how we are to conduct ourselves in poverty, persecution, and other prosperities or adversities.”
In a similar vein, Augustine wrote in City of God: “And yet if any man uses this life with a reference to that other which he ardently loves and confidently hopes for, he may well be called even now blessed, though not so much in reality so much as in hope. But the actual possession of the happiness of this life, without the hope of what is beyond, is but a false happiness and profound misery.”
In conclusion, hope is of much greater value than temporal fulfillment when God has not granted to us our desires. When the object of righteous hope is realized, it will not disappoint. Consequently, it is impossible for hope to disappoint in the present (Rom. 5:5). What a great hope we have to give!
“Hope now in God, I’ll praise Him still. My help, my God, is He” (Psa. 42:11).
– Quotes from Wilhelmus `a Brakel taken from The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Vol. 2, p.p. 317-330. And yes, this is yet another urging for you to purchase his work.