Fear and hope are similar, but opposite.
“Fear” is an expectation of future loss.
“Hope” is an expectation of future gain.
Since both of these are based on an expectation of the future, they are both based upon belief. What do you believe about the future? This will determine whether you live in hope, fear, or just plain apathy.
Important: since no one can predict with certainty the future, both fear and hope can be extremely wrong or exactly correct. The difficulty is in knowing whether your fear and/or hope are warranted. On what are they based? Truth or fiction?
Let’s face it: it is possible that both your fears and your hopes are both incorrect. And, yes, it is possible that your fears and/or hopes are correct.
But how is one to know? How can any person know with certainty what is going to happen in the future? This is certainly the key question. And there is an answer. Are you ready for it?
The answer is that there is only one being that knows the future. Only one. We call Him God. The Bible says that God knows every aspect of the future; every detail. In fact, God knows so much about the future that it is impossible for Him to ever learn anything. He simultaneously possesses all knowledge of everything that will be and everything that could be. God can never be surprised. So, to say that “God knows the future” is an understatement. For God, in a sense, there is no “future” because all knowledge and all “futures” are immediately present in His mind. He never “recalls” anything. He never has to pause to try to remember anything. He doesn’t have long term memory storage. All knowledge is immediately present in His mind – and always has been – from long before time began.
At this point is ok to say “Wow!” Truly God is amazing. He knows everything. He never lies. He always tells the exact truth. And He is never wrong. Never. It is impossible for a being who has all knowledge and never lies to speak anything other than the exact truth. Even when He speaks about the future.
Now…back to “hope” and “fear.” Remember that both of these are based upon an expectation of the future. Since we humans are often (if not usually) wrong in our predictions of the future, perhaps we should be a little more modest and humble in how much confidence we place in our hopes and fears. This is good advice, and we would be very wise to accept it – except for one great exception: sometimes God tells us what is going to happen in the future. Yes, that is correct! God has recorded, in writing, some of the things that are going to transpire in the future. Since God can never lie, if we take the time to learn these things God has said about the future, then we can have appropriate levels of hope or fear, because such things will be based on the certainty of God’s promises. This is an amazing concept. And it is very personal to me. One quick story:
During the winter of 1988 I was sitting alone at night on the patio of our house in San Diego. I was thinking about the death of my daughter. Six months earlier I had witnessed her death in an automobile accident. I was alone and in pain. I had a feeling of such loss. Realizing that I would never see or hug or hold my dear sweet daughter again. That I would never see her smile or hear her laugh. The pain was like a giant wave. It overwhelmed me. I was buried beneath an unescapable expectation of eternal loss; The loss of my relationship with my daughter.
At that precise moment, I opened my Bible and read these words that Jesus the Son of God said in John 11:25
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”
Note that Jesus mentions something about the future. He says “he who believes in Me will live – even if – he dies.” Someone who is a believer in Jesus; a Christian; someone who has placed their faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and walks in newness of life – this is the person about whom Jesus states this future fact.
Well, I knew without a doubt that my daughter believed in Jesus. She loved Him and prayed to Him and talked about Him. Her faith in Him was very real. So what was Jesus telling me about the future? Simply this: that I would, in fact, see my daughter again. That she would live again. That one day we would be reunited (because, you see, I am also a believer in Jesus!).
In that moment I believed what Jesus said. I realized that He spoke the exact truth about the future.
And I knew.
I knew that I would see my daughter again!
Poof. The fear was gone. The tidal wave of future expectation was blasted into oblivion. And in its place a certain joy began to blossom. A joy that has never left me. Because now I know something of what the future holds: the happy reunion with my daughter in the presence of Jesus. That is what we call “biblical hope” because it is based on the certain knowledge of God’s promise.
NOTE: grief and fear are different. Although my fear left me, my grief did not. The pain of present loss (grief) was still there and was very real. It still is. The fact is, that right now I do not have my daughter present with me, and the pain is still there. The pain is reality. It cannot be called fear. Nor can it be called sin. Grief and pain over actual loss are real. They are appropriate responses to suffering.
Right now, then, it is accurate to say that I have both grief and hope. But no fear. And the hope that I have encourages me to continue. This is wonderful!
But what exactly is “encouragement?” How do we get it? And is it always correct? Is it possible to give false encouragement to others? If so, how?
These questions will be considered in the next blog! Until then, please try to find some things that God says about the future. It is not hard! Just look in the Bible! And may God bless you with great hope!