Hope, for the Christian, is as firm as can be, and even our suffering can’t take it away. As Packer goes on to say, “Though the Christian life is regularly marked more by suffering than by triumph (1 Corinthians 4:8-13; 2 Corinthians 4:7-18; Acts 14:22), our hope is sure and our mood should be one of unquenchable confidence: we are on the victory side.” We are on the victory side not because we are overcomers but because Jesus, our hope, is the Overcomer.
The two disciples began the seven-mile walk home from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Despairing recent events, they didn’t notice the man joining their party until he began talking. Had they known him? They certainly had, though they were unaware at the moment. In an ironic twist, the topic of their home going discussion was now one of their carpool. The one whom they had hoped was the one to redeem Israel (Luke 24:21) was alive again. Their hope was not put to shame (Romans 5:5). But they couldn’t see that yet. Oh, how hope is often veiled by our own doubts!
It’s a common fear, this putting to shame of one’s hope. It is a fire easily extinguished by the wet blanket of the world’s disappointments. By definition, hope is something future-oriented, out beyond, something promised though not yet possessed. Anything out in the future is, of course, uncertain, and that uncertainty plays with our mind. The things we hope for (and hope in) can let us down. We’ve been there a thousand times, haven’t we? The hoped-for Christmas present never comes. The hoped-for spouse never asks you out. The hoped-for promotion never materializes. To grow up in this world is to grow up learning to deal with disappointment.
Hope, it seems, is a fickle thing. Perhaps it’s something better left alone. That’s why so many today seem to have none. Why bother? So cynicism reigns. Things might be okay later on, but don’t get your hopes up. Everything ultimately disappoints. Even death, that release into the great land beyond is now thought by so many as a great nothingness—a removal of sorts from all that matters, never subjecting one to pain again, nor, for that matter, to any other emotion. Culturally, our hope amounts to nothing. The great hope of the enlightenment, that we were progressing upwardly, soon to be far better versions of ourselves, is no longer enough. We aren’t progressing—the twentieth century proved that well enough—but now we’re barely even trying. We dull our fears with entertainment and erase our eternal hopes with something more instantly gratifying: another hit of sugar, another purchase from Amazon, another trip to the beach, anything short-lived because who has time for things to come one day? So credit card bills carry a never decreasing balance because someone has to foot the bill of our hopelessness.
The Emmaus road disciples would find a home in twenty-first-century America. Obviously, Jesus is dead, yet the world still spins. Death is imminent but better left unconsidered. Going home is the only option left. At least there’s comfort there as we wait out the rest of our days.
But as they walked, their new partner rebuked their lack of faith and spoke wonderful things to them from the Bible. He proved something, though they weren’t sure at the time what the point was. All they knew was that their hearts began to light up with something pushing them onward, a burning inside that restored the hope they thought they’d lost (Luke 24:32). They went home despairing a dead Jesus but on the way, they met a living savior.
Hope is born out of such things. It’s when our head is lowest and our hearts are dimmest that Jesus does his best work, even if that work has been there from the foundation of the world. It’s us that needs to see it, and it’s to us that Jesus comes, rebuking if he must, but still lovingly bearing with us as if we’re the only ones in the world. To him, we are. You, Christian, are his mission—the very reason he lived, died, and rose again. In his glory, he has all the time in the world for you. All the patience too, it seems.