What Is Hope and Why Do We Need it so Badly?

What is hope? In today’s culture, the word hope is often used to represent wishful thinking. But the Old Testament verb translated hope is qawa while the noun from the same root is tiqwa. Both mean “to trust and wait expectantly.”

young confident black woman looking up into light

What is hope? A definition that reminds me of a child making a wish over a cake lit with candles, the Cambridge Dictionary explains that hope is when one “...want(s) something to happen or to be true.”

Even though the little one squeezes and blows with all his might, it’s unlikely either Mom or Dad will provide the gift for which he’d wished. But the Bible describes hope much differently.

Together, we’ll explore what hope is according to scripture and why we need it so badly.

What Is Hope? Its Meaning & Significance

What is hope? In today’s culture, the word hope is often used to represent wishful thinking. But the Old Testament verb translated hope is qawa while the noun from the same root is tiqwa. Both mean “to trust and wait expectantly.”

Jeremiah 14:22 reads, “Therefore our hope (qawa) is in you, for you are the one who does all this.” The prophet is not fearful. He isn’t wondering if God will come through. Instead, Jeremiah confidently expects God to fulfill His promises to Israel.

The New Testament uses the verb elpizo and the noun elpis to relay its message. The difference, though, is that in the New Testament hope is no longer a mere part of speech. Hope is invested in and focused on someone—the person of Jesus.

Consider the words of 1 Timothy 4:10 (NIV), “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope (elpizo) in the living God, who is the Savior of all people...” Unlike a child blowing out the candles on her birthday cake and making a wish, Biblical hope is not vain or fanciful thinking. Instead, hope rests in the sure and confident expectation that God, who sent Christ to pay the penalty for our sins, will meet all our needs both in the present and for all of eternity.

Hope begins with our faith in Jesus and the trust that we have been rescued for eternal life. This hope transforms our entire approach toward life.

What Does the Bible Say About Hope?

Hope builds anticipation. A Naval officer, my husband served in multiple deployments and training exercises. Whether he was gone for three months or more than a year, I always anticipated his return and carefully checked the days off the calendar.

Romans 8:24-25 says we look can look forward to our salvation in the same way. “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Hope produces fruit. While writing to the believers in Rome, Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace” (Romans 15:13 NIV). Did you notice that God also gives us an abundance of other gifts? These include joy, peace, and the other fruits of the Spirit which you can read more about

Hope fills our hearts with praise. The promise of salvation is reason to celebrate as the writer of Psalm 71:14 proclaims, “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more” (Psalm 71:14 NIV).

Hope builds character and teaches us the disciplines of faith. Several years ago, anxiety and depression ruled the day. My husband was boots-on-the-ground halfway around the world while my teenagers engaged in full-on rebellion.

Jesus was my only hope, and my faith grew stronger during that painful season. I learned to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12 NIV).

Why Does Hope Play Such a Huge Role in the Lives of Christians?

Hope encourages Christians to change their perspective. Someone who believes this world is as good as it gets will live differently from the person who believes he or she has a forever-future full of abundance and joy. Hope has a way of getting us through whatever we are facing.

Christians can live peering through the lens of eternity-future. Instead of seeking after fame, wealth, sexual fulfillment, enlightenment, or any other source of personal pleasure that must be enjoyed at the moment, believers recognize that even the most beautiful of our experiences pale in comparison to what the Lord has in store for us. As 2 Corinthians 2:9 reads, “No...mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”

Hope encourages Christians to live with boldness. People often post photos of their favorite restaurants, destinations, and vacation spots or share reviews of books they recommend. Followers of Jesus will one day feast at the wedding supper of the Lamb and know of one not-to-miss-destination—heaven.

2 Corinthians 3:12 (NIV) tells us, “...since we have such a hope, we are very bold”. We may or may not be sharing on social media about Jesus, but the hope that those we know, love, and care about will be with us spurs us on to tell others about His love and what it means to be a Christian.

Hope encourages Christians to take a different approach to sufferingWhen struggle and trial raise their ugly heads, the reminder that heaven awaits comforts weary souls. The Bible promises “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV).

The apostle Paul, who may have understood suffering more than any of the other apostles, wrote these words under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. God will redeem the believer’s pain just as He did Christ’s.

Hope encourages Christians to live with intention. Scripture assures us we were made in the image of God. Not only that but we were “created for good works” (Ephesians 2:8-10). God made each of us to complete specific assignments based on our individual gifts and talents. No matter our past, He can use us to accomplish His purposes.

Hope encourages Christians because of our strong position. If we are already “seated in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6) and protected through belief in Christ, nothing can harm us. No matter the danger or threat, God will be with us. Pandemics, disease, and death are unable to overcome what Jesus did on the cross two thousand years ago.

4 Ways to Bring Hope Back into Your Life Today

Do you feel as though you need more hope? Try some of the following:

Spend time focusing on God’s promises. Journal hope-filled scriptures that encourage your heart. You might start with these beautiful verses.

Print this set of free Hope Verses coloring sheets. Now, turn on your favorite praise or worship music and soak in His presence.

Get involved. Engaging in relationship, helping others, and being part of community increases our sense of well-being. God made us to make a difference. If you’d like, join me for our online Bible study starting in July or check with your church or a local women’s group such as Mothers of Preschoolers or Stonecroft.

Start a new hobby. Did you know that learning increases feel-good hormone production in the body? Have you always wanted to play the guitar? Fly an airplane? Play tennis like a pro? Today might be the perfect time to gather your resources, set up lessons, or plan the first session.

This article also provides a host of ideas you may find helpful.

Be encouraged, friend. Hope was born in a manger, died on a cross, and rose again that we might have life abundant. While we wait for Him to call us home, we press on in eager anticipation as we serve one another and share about the hope of an amazing destination.

Photo credit: ©Pexels/Tony James Andersson

Tammy KenningtonTammy Kennington is a writer and speaker familiar with the impact of trauma, chronic illness, and parenting in the hard places. Her heart is to lead women from hardship to hope. You can meet with Tammy at her blog www.tammykennington.com where she’ll send you her e-book, Moving from Pain to Peace-A Journey Toward Hope When the Past Holds You Captive.