By: Hannah Deaton
The first dessert I ever made from scratch was peanut butter pie from my mom’s brown rooster cookbook. This is one of those family cookbooks with the cover falling off and the pages stained from sticky, ingredient covered fingers (a cookbook you can trust).
To make this pie you must first prepare a filling on the stove-top for what seems like forever. Then you pour that filling over a homemade pie crust dusted with powdered sugar and peanut butter clusters. The pie is then topped with more of the sugar-peanut butter mixture and a half-foot tall cloud of meringue. Finally, the pie is broiled in the oven until the waves of meringue peaks brown to perfection.
Peanut butter pie is an art and, for so long, I just could not get the consistency of the filling right. I brought a runny pie to family Christmas for more years than I’d like to admit (I’m forever grateful to my uncle who ate a huge slice with a smile, year after year).
You’re probably wondering why I’m sharing this. Well, I want to talk about those moments when I first mixed the filling ingredients in the saucepan, took the pan to the stove top, and began to stir. Those moments between stirring and boiling, between runny mixture and thick filling—the “in-between.”
I want to talk about a four-letter word. Because what I did, as I whisked my filling almost angrily, was hope. I hoped against hope that, this time, my pie filling would thicken.
What is hope?
When you say, “I hope so,” what do you mean? I think, generally, we mean that we wait for our desired outcome, knowing that what we desire may not come to pass. In other words, our hope is uncertain, movable, malleable. The world “hopes” for things because there is no other option than to “hope,” just like I hoped that my pie filling would thicken. Still, a bitter edge of doubt always clouded my hope because I recognized the possibility that my hope would not come to pass.
But Jesus has shown us a better way. The Greek word for hope in the New Testament, “Elpis,” means “joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.”1 See the significant difference? When we hope biblically, we hope in Jesus, and we trust fully that His plans will come to pass. In other words, biblical hope is certain, immovable, indestructible. John Piper says, “Biblical hope is not a mere desire for something good to happen. It is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. Biblical hope has moral certainty in it.”2 There is no bitterness in this hope because it is grounded in the knowledge of who God is, not our circumstances.
In what/whom do we place our hope?
The world places hope in the hands of self, others, or circumstances. When we place our expectation for fulfilled hopes in the hands of broken people or situations, we should be
prepared for disappointment.
Believers are called to place their hope in Jesus Christ. When we place our expectation for fulfilled hopes in the hands of the perfect Son of God, we can prepare ourselves to be filled with “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11), because whatever we are going through will pass and we will one day see the Father. We must get this right before we can ever “hope well” in this world.
What do we do when our hope is realized?
I want to be quick to mention that I am not negating the validity of hoping in “worldly” things. David hoped for safety, Abraham hoped for a child, Naomi hoped for a husband for Ruth, and Paul hoped to see the church in Philippi. As believers, we can hope for things in this world, but those hopes must be pinned against the backdrop of our steadfast hope of knowing and glorifying God.
Sometimes, our hopes are fulfilled. In Ezra, God “stirred up the spirit” of King Cyrus so that all of the Israelites were allowed to return home and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1). In chapter three, we find three things we can do when our hopes our fulfilled: (1) remember and praise God (Ezra 3:11); (2) continue in what the Lord has called you to do today (Ezra 3:10); and (3) recognize that this world is still broken, and weep over what has been lost (Ezra 3:12-13).
What do we do when our hope is not realized?
Sometimes our hopes are not fulfilled. In the book of Philippians, we read that Paul wanted to go visit Philippi, but the Lord took him to a jail cell instead. Paul models for us three things we can do when our hopes are not fulfilled: (1) pray joyfully (Phil. 1:3-4); (2) look for the ways that the gospel is advancing through your situation (Philippians 1:12); and (3) hope in the Lord (Philippians 2:19).
Who is our ultimate Hope?
I’ve had so many conversations lately that have been filled with “hopes” for COVID to go away, for life to get back to normal, for circumstances to change. I hope alongside you for all of those things. But I want to remind you that we have a greater hope. And I want to encourage you to take every chance you get to remind those around you of the hope we have in Christ, who is “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Jesus is our sure and steady hope that always, always, makes things turn out for his glory and our good.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, I did finally get the consistency of my peanut butter pie just right. The secret was adding just a bit of cornstarch. Voila!
1 Inside BST et al., “Elpis Meaning In Bible – New Testament Greek Lexicon – New American Standard”, Bible Study Tools, Last modified 2020, https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/elpis.html.
2 John Piper, “What Is Hope?”, Desiring God, Last modified 2020, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/what-is-hope.