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Indestructible Hope: To what extent can a believer hope with certainty? Or does “hope” always imply a gap between expectation and certainty?

For Discussion:

  1. To what extent can a believer hope with certainty? Or does “hope” always imply a gap between expectation and certainty?
  2. Habakkuk 1:1-4, 3:17-19. The official study guide goes to the book of Habakkuk to set the stage for today’s discussion: Habakkuk 1:1-4 registers the urgent complaint, God responds with a promise of deliverance. In the end, Habakkuk solidly confirms his hope (3:17-19). Given the intensity of his question, was Habakkuk’s hope really indestructible?
  3. Biblical reference points. The following passages provide the opportunity to explore the meaning of the word “hope”:
    1. Job 38-42: Hope after despair. The book of Job offers a study in contrasts: the introduction presents a man who declares absolute confidence in God in spite of daunting circumstances. The main body of the book then opens up to searching questions. But the conclusion affirms God’s presence with emphasis, without ever addressing the substance of Job’s questions. Does the nature of human existence suggest the impossibility of ever moving beyond skepticism to indestructible hope? When disasters touch our dear ones, is hope always tinged with a certain desperation?
    2. Isaiah 41:8-14: Hope in the midst of despair. Even though Isaiah speaks strong words of protection and care, the passage is still overshadowed by a sense of trouble and disaster. Does the image of a God who holds our hand point toward a way of finding hope? In other words, do we find hope by capturing certain mental pictures which move beyond the present reality?
    3. Jeremiah 29: Hope in a nearly hopeless situation. As exiles in Babylon, God’s people found themselves in discouraging circumstances. Yet in this very setting is found one of the most popular “hope” passages in the Bible: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” The same chapter urges the exiles to make peace with their circumstances. They are to build houses the live in them (29:5); they are to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (29:7). Is the ability to compromise one’s ultimate hopes a means of re-defining hope in ways that can provide at least some help in the middle of overwhelming disappointment?
    4. Hebrews 12:5-13: The discipline of the Lord. It is not clear whether the “trials” referred to in Hebrews 12 are random events or focused on particular “character” needs of those who are suffering. But whatever kinds of events are involved, they are presented as coming from the hand of a loving God. Is it more helpful to see hard events coming from a personal God than to see a less powerful God simply allowing the events to happen? Would different temperaments answer this question in different ways?

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