The Distinction between IN and FOR (Part 2)

The Christian cannot live without hope any more than the Christian can live without faith or without love. This does not apply just to a single person looking for a relationship alone. The Christian life bleeds hope. Every facet of the Christian life involves a hope for what is not yet, for what should or could be. It is here, in this wide river of grace that the single comes to dip their feet. We hope for a relationship because we are people of hope. We hope in a God who longs to bless us. We hope for the things we desire.

The realist will remind us of the failures, of the setbacks, of the letdowns. Thank you, realist, but I live for more. I live not for that which IS, but for that which could be. It is dangerous to shape our past, present, and future according to our desire for a husband or wife. It is a grave mistake to bend all our energies towards this singular goal—we dare not. The pessimist among us will view the past as a series of mistakes that have wrecked our chances of relationship, the present life as void of opportunity, and our future as a bleak landscape of wasted time. This leads to hopelessness that has no place in the life of a Christian. Christians hope!

This year is not so awful at its start. But our minds are able to conjure up next December and feel the cold and lonely days we now know. In this way, even at its start, this year will strain our resolve. Some might say, “It is just easier to accept than to hope.” I ask, “Accept what?” I accept without reserve today!!! I see no hope that I will be married today. I see no hope that I will be married tomorrow or in a month, for that matter. But I neither see the whole year, nor do I see next year. To accept what has not yet come to pass strikes me as hopelessness, if not faithlessness.

Instead we are to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have—hope” (Rom. 15:4). Paul even refers to our Father in heaven as “the God of hope” through whom we can be filled “with all joy and peace as [we] trust in him…[and] overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Oh, yes! I know the Gospel is not so narrow. I speak not of relationships in particular, but hope in general. There is a reason. We are not singles longing for relationships. We are Christians longing for more. Being single is simply one facet of a greater longing. We hope for relationships because we are not home yet. We do not have all that we want and the longing for a relationship is simply part of a greater longing. So, while I encourage the single to hope for what they desire, my encouragement is to all Christians—hope!

We hope for things, but never place our hope in things. We never place our hope in husband or wife, job, home, children, country, or life itself. That is the critical difference. We hope for these things, in as much as our desires are good, but we never place hope in them. We hope only in God.

So we should hope, but we should hope patiently!

Hope is not a demand. Hope is desire, longing, expressed through faith—tempered by faith. Hope is faithful expectation, and yes, this carries the possibility of disappointment. I have lived a life of faith long enough to know that God loves the difficult and relishes the impossible. If by faith it is possible that I will be married (and it is), and if God is good (and He is)—then there is hope.

If we are honest, we must confess that we surrender hope, not because there IS no hope, but because we are scared. (I wanted to write, “we are cowards,” but I wanted to be gentle.) We fear having to retract words of hope we spoke with such zeal yesterday. We fear having to explain how such a hopeful relationship failed. We reason it is better not to hope at all. If we make the choice to give up hope, let us simply admit that we do so out of fear, out of self-preservation, because it is safer than nurturing a hope that may rot before bearing fruit.

I want to be gentle, because I know it is not easy to nurture a failing hope. I understand this. I do! I realize that a faltering hope grows denser and more cumbersome with each passing year. It lingers in dark corners, hoping for a brighter tomorrow, but can weigh us down. We are hesitant to display our beleaguered hope, lest someone think us naive. We are hesitant to be thought a fool for daring to hope when all things press us to give up. The Word of God tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12).

The critics whisper, “After so long haven’t you buried that foolish dream?”

“No!” I answer. “I have not! I will not! Why have you?”

Eating the Bread of Life and drinking from Living Water has renew my battered hope. Though I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I was brought to green pastures. I was led beside still waters and allowed to drink while He stood guard. He has restored my soul, and hope has revived! See how it perfumes the very air we breathe? See how the paths of righteousness stretch before me—and all for His name’s sake? It is all for His name’s sake. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12).

The Christian hope is anchored in “our living hope” Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:3). Winter has just begun and the thaw is nowhere in sight, but we are convinced it is wise to place “our hope IN the living God” (1Tim. 4:10). What He will bring in the years to come we embrace, whether it is ALL that we want, less than we ask, or “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). My hope in HIM is for “immeasurably more.”

If you can find no reason to hope, be still and let hope find you.


This article first appeared on — Friday, February 20, 2009



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