What does the Scripture say about hope, rebirth and renewal? Where can we find hope when we are burdened with despair or crushed by failure around us?
At the end of the Book of Revelation, we find these striking words spoken by the risen Jesus: “Behold, I make all things new!” (Revelations 21:5, RSVCE) We have a God who brings life out of death and hope out of despair. The God who made all things in the beginning is the same one who “makes all things new.” This is the source of our hope.
But you might say: “We don’t see this now. Things don’t look very renewed! Where are we to find hope? Does anything we do really make a difference?”
This is just what the author of Ecclesiastes concluded: “Behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14, RSVCE) In response to this, the Scripture points us to God, the source of our hope. He makes all things new. From the ashes He rebuilds.
The Book of Lamentations gives a powerful testimony to the way that hope functions in the midst of despair and loss.
The setting is the city of Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C. The besieging Babylonian armies have just crushed the holy city, leaving it utterly torn down and burned to the ground. The author of Lamentations sits in the midst of the ruins, filled to the brim with despair, racked with grief and pain and says, “Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow which was brought upon me?” (Lamentations 1:12, NRSV)
All happiness has fled away, and hope has disappeared. “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.’” (Lamentations 3:17-18)
This is a profound portrait of complete despair. How can one find hope for rebirth in such a situation?
But somehow, the light of hope broke through. The city was still in ruins, but hope woke up and returned: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have 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.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)
What has changed? Surrounded by the rubble of the city, the one who mourned recalled the promise of the Lord’s steadfast love. He knows that God will not abandon him or his people. He hopes in the Lord, because he knows that God is faithful.
Hope in the Bible is not based on human calculation. It does not come from “insider knowledge” that things are about to change and go our way.
Hope is not based on a general positive attitude that is determined to see things through rose-colored glasses. Hope is based on the Lord God — His character and His promises.
Even in the midst of the worst failures, hope strengthens the heart because it is connected with the power and the promises of God.
In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author presents a marvelous image of hope as the “anchor” for our soul.
Consider how anchors work: The anchor is let down from the boat and planted firmly in the earth beneath the water. When the tides come in and the winds blow, the anchor holds the boat secure because it is rooted firmly. Hope acts in the same way for us. God has promised us eternal life with Christ.
This promise is something that we can “seize” and take hold of in difficult times, like an anchor in a roiling sea. “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered.” (Hebrews 6:19-20, NRSV)
Earthly anchors go down into the earth; hope is a heavenly anchor that runs from earth into heaven, where Christ is. When we take hold of the promises of Christ, they function as an anchor for our lives, connected to the risen Christ himself. He holds us firm.
We don’t yet see God’s full reign in the world. As Paul says in the Letter to the Romans: “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25, NRSV)
But hope is much more than just a lifeline that we cling to in a stormy sea, hanging on for dear life. Hope brings encouragement and consolation to our hearts; it strengthens our resolve to press on and to expect great things from the Lord even in the present time of crisis.
Isaiah says this best; speaking to a community of the faithful burdened by despair and lacking in hope, the prophet calls them to be strengthened by God in hope: “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31, NRSV)