Hope Against Hope
“In hope against hope he believed…” Romans 4:18
That phrase right there. “In hope against hope…” That phrase has probably been the single most intriguing phrase in all of scripture for me. It isn’t necessarily my favorite passage, but it is one of two verses that has, more than any others, attracted me and inspired my imagination and curiosity.
It isn’t a long phrase, three quick little words. Hope Against Hope, but it summarizes an entire lifetime of experience for one man’s extraordinary life. To me, the phrase has always seemed to be a contradiction, like an impossible scenario. It sounded so cool to say, but my mind was never able to really wrap itself around a literal meaning that worked with the scenario.
A quick setting for those who aren’t familiar with the passage…
Abraham, who scripture refers to as the father of those who would live by faith received a promise from God. Part of that promise involved him being the father of many nations. Long story short, decades went by without that promise being fulfilled. He was about a century old before that promise came to pass with the birth of one child named Isaac. (who would become the father of Israel, who would be the father of 12 kids, who would become the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel – pretty big deal)
This ‘Abraham’ is the guy Paul is talking about when he says that he ‘hoped against hope’.
Back to the phrase
According to the dictionary, hope is ‘the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best’.
Also according to the dictionary, against is ‘in opposition to; contrary to; adverse or hostile to’.
This was always my problem, how can hope (which is a good feeling about what can be) work against (in opposition, contrary, and hostile to) itself???
It never made any sense to me. It’s like saying ‘happiness against happiness’, or ‘joy against joy’, or ‘peace against peace’… you get the picture, right?
The Moment It Clicked
A week or two ago as I read the passage again, it came alive to me and ‘clicked’ for the first time. It suddenly made perfect sense in the most beautifully inspiring way like only the Word of God can.
Here’s my understanding. As a man of faith, I believe Abraham took hold of and believed the promises of God immediately when he received them. When God said, “You’re gonna have a huge family, like super huge…” I suspect Abraham started building additions on his tent. He probably started building baby beds and stocking up on Huggies.
I think that Abraham immediately got his hopes up. He and Sarah probably got right to business, (immature chuckle – sorry). He couldn’t wait for her to come into the room and say, “There’s two pink lines!!!!” …or whatever they did back then.
But it didn’t happen. She wasn’t pregnant, so he chucked that ‘hope’ in the recycle bin and got his hopes up again for next month. When there were no stripes the next month, he once again pitched that hope into the recycle bin with the other and got his hopes up again. …and again …and again …and again …for decades
The Monument of Failed Hopes
After the years passed, it wasn’t one or two unfulfilled unfulfilled hopes in the corner, it was a mountain of, “Not this time.” “Nope, not yet.” “Maybe next month.” “I’m sure it will happen next year.”
His hopes, which were grounded in the absolute faith in God’s amazing ability, were now becoming one of his greatest obstacles. It was becoming impossible to ignore all the times that things didn’t work out. How can you sit there and fail to see decades of deferred hopes and not lose hope.
Can you imagine what people said to him? Who wouldn’t think he was a little crazy. I don’t think anyone believed that he could still become the father of many nations, and I have no doubt that there were nights when the mountain of unmet hope in the corner tried to pile the depression, doubt, and insecurity on him.
Against the mountain of unmet hopes, Abraham continued to hope.
Perhaps one of Abraham’s greatest strengths was his ability to ignore the things that seemed like failures and get his hopes up one more time. He was able to have hope in spite of the hope that had been deferred. He was able to ‘hope against hope’. Perhaps today, that is your great strength too.
I’m sitting here tonight writing this post, not because I really want to be writing at this hour, but because I feel compelled to. Partly because I surely need the encouragement, but I believe that there’s someone or maybe a lot of someones out there who are staring at an Everest sized pile of times that their hopes fell flat.
Please don’t give up. Faith shines brightest when all other possibilities have failed. God is bigger and greater and far more capable of fulfilling His promises than we can ever imagine. Don’t lose hope.
Sometimes you can’t give a @#$% if everyone in the world thinks you’ve lost your mind and are living a fairy tale. When God makes a promise, He always makes good on it! Be a little foolish in your hopes. Abraham certainly was, and guess what… It worked. Big time!
Believe, and if it doesn’t happen, believe again.