As new sports seasons kick off (whether figuratively or literally), there are many fans who have faithfully cheered on losing teams for many years. For them, a new season means a new win/loss record, and even a team that lost every game the previous year offers hope to its fans that they might win this time. (In the region where I live, this seems to actually be a tradition.)
Still, when we put our hope or faith in someone (or something), we should only expect results corresponding to that person’s or thing’s ability to actually do what we expect them to. I may hope that my team will win the title this year, but if all their players are rookies, their star is injured, and their coach was just fired, my hope will likely be in vain.
Similarly, I may have faith that a branch will hold me as I’m reaching out from a perch in a tree towards a juicy piece of fruit. If weather, mold, and insects have taken their toll, though, my faith is unfounded and I may end up on the ground (shortly to be followed by a stretcher, and then an ambulance!).
There is a lot that we can put our hope in, especially when things seem down. When our sports team hasn’t won in a decade (or a century!), we may hope in a new star player, a new stadium, or a new coach. When illness strikes, we may hope in a cutting-edge treatment, an expert doctor, or a specific medicine. When relationships continue to get us down, we may put our hope in a new best friend (or even a blind date).
Unfortunately, not all of these things always live up to the hope that we put in them. Teams sometimes lose, despite lots of investment in the off-season. Sickness sometimes prevails in our fallen world. People let us down, or don’t live up to our expectations.
There is something we can count on, though – and not just death and taxes, if Benjamin Franklin is to be believed. The author of Psalm 43 reminds himself about who he can reliably and unquestionably depend on:
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!
Psalms 43:5 NLT
(See also Psalm 42 for more, similar thoughts.)
I like this passage, and its message has surfaced in my life when I needed hope. The author doesn’t just “wish” that God will be faithful; he understands that God is his Savior and his God (not a false “god”). God – the living, personal God – not only offered humankind a chance to be part of His family, but then reached out (after we had fallen and rebelled against Him) to provide a way for us to be saved and restored to that relationship. A God like that isn’t callous, distant, or detached. Instead, although He is eminently Holy, He is also loving, gracious, and faithful. That is the kind of God that we can count on, not just with our eternal destiny, but also with our daily struggles.
Furthermore, the author of this Psalm knows that God cannot be anything except faithful. Paul, in a letter to his student Timothy, drove this point home:
If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.
2 Timothy 2:13 NLT
That is one reason, I think, why “hope” in the Bible doesn’t just indicate a baseless wish, an unlikely aspiration, or a positive spin on a possible outcome. Instead, “hope” here refers more to something like an “expectation”, based on reason and history. It’s not the modern definition of “hope” as more of just a wish. Instead, Biblical hope is something that we look forward to, because it will occur in the future. God – existing outside of time, having created time itself – already knows it, and has shared the good news with us.
As a reminder, God’s fulfillment of His promises doesn’t always look like what we expect. Because He is perfectly wise and knows infinitely more than we do about the arc of history, we might not always see His faithfulness in the way that we expect (or not right away). However, time, experience, and even eternity all bear out His plan and His commitment to those He loves: both those who follow Him, and those who do not!
So, if you are tired of teams, organizations, people, and life in general just letting you down, I invite you to follow the advice of this wise Psalm-writer, and put your hope in Someone who will not disappoint you. Invest your mind, heart, and soul in the God who will always win, never comes up short, and has the power to act on His unwavering love for you.