“In Christ alone my hope is found.”
We sing these words and declare them as true, but it seems we practice a very different story in our daily lives. This comes in part from not fully understanding what hope is, and also our tendency to attach it onto unfulfilling things.
Frequently we use the term to convey our wishful thinking. For example, I hope my team wins; I hope I don’t get sick; or even I hope my spouse doesn’t leave me. We would like for these things to be true, but we are not really sure.
In contrast, when Scripture speaks of hope, it is describing a confident expectation, knowing something will take place even though it has not happen yet. It was Abraham’s hope, his confident expectation in God that moved him to radical faith in the same (Hebrews 11:17-19).
According to Christian philosopher Josef Pieper, hope is being “on the way” towards the good God has in store for us, living neither in despair or presumption. Despair is the choice to give up on our desires for something better, and live as if fulfillment will never come. Presumption is the choice to settle for a false fulfillment, an imitation, and not the true good God has for us.
Both despair and presumption are hopeless positions because we are no longer “on the way.” We don’t hope for something we have given up on or that we believe we already have. Hope is waiting with a confident and eager expectation for something we do not yet have (Romans 8:24-25).
Living with hope sounds nice, but it is not always easy in practice. It is generally easier to give up our desires in despair, attach them to lesser things to minimize the pain of our longing in presumption, or some combination of both. For instance, the guy who has given up on finding meaningful work and turns to various addictions to help numb the pain of unmet desires.
In marriage, our hope is also often displaced. Wanting a life of love and joy and beauty, we place our hope in the marriage itself, expecting it to bring us the life we desire. And what follows is disappointment.
Certainly there is nothing wrong with desiring a vibrant marriage, and God often does bring us a rich life through marriage. However, we must be careful not to confuse God’s provisions with God himself. Even at its best, marriage is just a picture of the relationship God desires with each of us.
When our ultimate hope is in the marriage and not in Christ, we have settled for a dim reflection and missed the infinite joy God offers in himself. The marriage has become an idol when we look to it for the Life that only God can provide. And this eventually leads to frustration as we place unrealistic demands on the relationship.
When our hope is anchored in Christ, we are free to enjoy all the riches marriage (and life) has to offer, without fear. Because our life is ultimately found in Christ, there is no longer a fearful dependence to get it from our spouse or the marriage. The relationship is now free to become all God desires for it.
Fight for your marriage. But remember to put your hope in Christ alone. He is the true Source of our life.
Where have you anchored your hope? Are you willing to live with an open desire and a confident expectation for the life God has for you? What would this look like in your marriage?
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” –Romans 5:5