Living Mere Hope: Four Ways to Cultivate Hope
The following is an excerpt from Jason Duesing’s new book, Mere Hope: Life in an Age of Cynicism. Jason Duesing serves as the academic Provost and Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author and editor of several books, including Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary and Upon this Rock: The Baptist Understanding of the Church.
Regularly, we are looking down, in, out, and up as we encounter trials, battle despair, and seek to serve others. As J. I. Packer rightly says, “Hope is a tender plant, easily crushed and extinguished, and every believer must budget for having to battle for it.” Click To Tweet These four areas are complements to that ongoing part of our Christian life. To put it another way, these are how mere hope is lived.
In the midst of the destruction of Jerusalem, the author of Lamentations is somehow able to focus on the character and goodness of God. When he does, he has hope (Lam. 3:21). This renewing effect of remembering is something we have been doing throughout this book and it is something regularly practiced throughout the Bible. When Jonah’s life was fainting away, he remembered the Lord (Jonah 2:7). On the road to Emmaus, the disciples were helped when they remembered Jesus’ words (Luke 24:8). While on earth, Jesus spoke in such a way that his disciples would remember his words when they needed them the most (John 16:4). Whether memorizing Scripture, listening to sermons, or reviewing key Bible passages in times of temptation or need, to live a life of mere hope, the Christian must do the chief work of remembering.
The author continues in Lamentations 3 to hope in the midst of lament. After remembering, his soul speaks to the Lord, declaring, “great is your faithfulness” and “The Lord is my portion” (Lam. 3:23–24). As Old Testament scholar Heath Thomas says, “The substance of hope in Lamentations is found in the logic of prayer.”8 Even Job, when undergoing his darkest trial and confusion as to the workings of God, indicates that his hope leads to prayer: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face” (Job 13:15). Mere hope must express itself to God in prayer. The task of remembering to strengthen hope will naturally lead to conversation with God. Click To Tweet
Psalm 149:5 declares, “Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.” A heart full of joy rooted in mere hope cannot help but express that in praise to God. Singing in bed, or in the privacy of a place or time where no one else knows, hears, or evaluates, is a good indication that mere hope is overflowing. Furthermore, singing or hearing others sing truths about God or praise to God, often has a reorienting effect to “melt the clouds of sin and sadness” and restore joy and hope. Singing to the Lord is a regular command given to God’s people throughout the Bible and, when heeded, it serves to ground us in hope, and also stir up hope.
Peter, in his letter to exiles, instructed them to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). As we regularly look out toward others in global hope, we will naturally have opportunity to share how God has worked through the gift of mere hope in our lives and in the gospel.
These four areas, while both natural and vital to a healthy Christian life, are deficient if not also practiced corporately with a local church. Mere hope, as the core hope that all believers in Jesus Christ share, is meant to be shared. Not only does this benefit the believer, but it also serves as a biblical vehicle for helping Christians endure the current age of cynicism or whatever might replace it in the years to come.