By: Nathan Deg

Faith, hope, and love – the three things that, according to Scripture, last forever. Of these three things, I think the most difficult to understand is hope. After all, faith relates to trust and trust certainly lasts forever. And love is love. Yes, fully understanding love, especially God’s love will take eternity, but authentic love is something that never ends. But hope? How can hope last forever?

The difficulty with understanding hope is that the word ‘hope’ is one of those words that mean slightly different things in different contexts. Often, hope is used almost interchangeably with the word ‘wish’. “I hope I’ll get the job” is really, “I wish I’ll get the job”. Or “I hope so-and-so feels the same way about me as I feel about them” and “I wish they feel they feel the same.” When we say we hope for something, what we often mean is that we really want that thing to be true or to come true.

But there is more to the word hope than just wishful thinking. Hope means to desire with the expectation of fulfilment. In this sense, hope is more than just a desire. If we hope someone is doing well, we desire and expect their well-being.

When the Church talks about hope it talks about it as a virtue, not just a feeling. The Catechism puts it this way:

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. “ … (CCC 1817).

When we live this virtue; we desire the Kingdom. We desire a relationship with Christ. And we expect to receive these because we trust Jesus, because we have faith in God and His promises.

In this way the idea of hope is something that can last forever. Hope points away from the self and towards God. And that is where ultimate happiness and joy resides. In this sense of the word, hope always asks us to look to God for fulfilment. And that is true now and forever.

I think it’s important to talk a bit about how hope is a virtue. As noted in a previous article (Why would I want to be Virtuous), virtues are habits or attitudes towards life. They become ingrained in our very being. Which leads to the question, how do we live a life of hope? Especially when we look at the reality of pain and suffering in the world, and even at our own contributions to those. When we see the evils of poverty, of abandonment, of selfishness at work in the world, how do we have hope? How do we live hope?

The answer to those questions is the same as the answer to many of the great questions of life. We have hope through love. At the end of the day, regardless of what we’ve done and what we’ve seen, one thing always remains true. God loves you and me. He loves us far beyond anything we have ever experienced. When we ask God, ‘How much do You love me?” His answer is the Cross. He loved me enough to die for me.

Why do we have hope? Why do we desire to live with God? Why do we expect Him to fulfil His promises? Because He has already shown us. He has fulfilled all the promises He has made and we trust that He will continue to fulfil them. Why can we have hope that the suffering of this world will end, and that His love will reign? Because God is bigger than suffering.

We live a life of hope by trying each day to see where God is acting. Then we try to act in harmony with it. We live hope by cooperating with God’s love. That’s not to say that we won’t suffer or that we won’t sin, or that things aren’t bad. We will and they are. But during those times, we can try to remember that God is still with us. Remember that He’s bigger than all these things. After all, He already conquered death itself.

God is faithful, merciful, and loving. Talking about hope, the CCC also says:

We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love Him and do His will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ… (CCC 1821)

Jesus is ultimately the reason for our hope. Beyond anything else, it’s Jesus. Hope doesn’t fail because Jesus doesn’t fail. I pray that each of us are able to trust in Him. He desires us, and I hope that we will desire Him back. He created us, loves us, and is asking for us. My hope is that I say yes, and in that yes, I hold on to that hope. That we find hope, live hope, and radiate hope to all we meet.

About Author: Nathan DegVersion 2

I am an astrophysicist working as a post-doctoral fellow at UCT.  I obtained my Ph.D. in 2014, and am currently studying barred spiral galaxies, stellar streams, and the Milky Way.  I enjoy way to many video games, books, movies, and tv shows and have a deep and abiding love for real (ice) hockey.