Hope is a powerful force in our lives. The Austrian neurologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, said of Holocaust prisoners, “The prisoner who had lost his faith in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.” Hope dramatically impacts our ability to cope in life. However, what we place our hope in determines whether that hope can hold up to the heat, when tragedy strikes.
Most of our day to day hopes reside in earthly things: I hope to return to my job when this pandemic ends, I hope this relationship works out, I hope I will be respected by my peers. These hopes have their place, but they will not stand up to our greatest tragedies. Only a hope that transcends earthly circumstances can endure.
The Apostle Peter spoke of such a hope. This hope is an inheritance secured for believers in Heaven. Unlike hopes set on earthly things, people, or circumstance, this hope cannot be taken away, diminished, or defiled. It is more precious than pure gold.
How can this hope help us endure? Peter gives three ways.
First, it reminds us that our trials in this world are temporary but our inheritance in heaven is eternal. This motivates us to see our trials through, knowing an eternity of gladness awaits us.
Second, this hope allows suffering to produce the fruits of our faith. Gold must be subjected to fire to be purified. Similarly, the fruits of our faith can be produced through the fiery crucible of trial. Trials can reveal our idols. Anger and anxiety can teach us what on this earth we are holding too tightly on to. This hope allows us to release our grip on these things, because these things are not eternal things. Fear of scarcity can transform into generosity. A fierce impulse for survival can transform into self-sacrifice. Through such fruit-producing renouncing of idols, our faith is proved genuine .
Lastly, because of this hope, we know our suffering will be redeemed when Christ comes again. If God can bring good out of the worst moment in human history, Christ’s cruel cross, maybe he can do the same with my suffering to.