Hope and the Christian Life
Hope comes to us in various forms, with varying degrees of impact and duration. Some feel that their greatest hope is their children whose future is still to be written. Some find hope in their curiosity and sense of wonder. For others, it is when they see people working to make the world a more just and good place. But for Christians, how does hope look different? Hope is more than just a conviction or feeling; it is an offering of a reality we come to possess and which gives us a new life. This new life saves us. As Paul says, “in hope, we were saved” (Rom [8:28]).
The Difference Hope Makes
When we hope, we can live differently. The future carries a certainty with it when we have hope and that certainty helps shape our present way of living. In this sense redemption is a trustworthy hope that helps us face our present. As Pope Benedict XVI says “we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.” (Spe Salvi).
And just what is this redemptive hope that Christianity is talking about? To come to know God, which is to have faith, means to have hope because he has given us new life. We can have faith in him because he is our true shepherd, who walks with each of us on the final path of solitude, where no one else can accompany us. God himself has walked this path, through the kingdom of death, and has conquered it. And he has returned to accompany us. He gives us the certainty that together with him we can find a way through. And the goal for the Christian is eternal life. That is a life of overwhelming, uninterrupted joy with God.
When we have a trustworthy hope it is redemptive. “The one who hopes lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.” We can see that redemption is more than informative. It is more than just a conviction. It is also performative. It changes the course of how we live our lives, and we come into possession of a new life, and we begin to live for others because we know we are living for God.
Examples of Hope
We also have the great example of the blessed company of saints. Many endured afflictions with patience and confidence because they had a lasting hope. This hope gave them new life that could not be taken away by their sufferings. As masters of the art of living and dying well, the saints have given us examples of how to live for God and others.