Hope is a Dangerous Thing
The movie The Shawshank Redemption is a powerful story of an innocent man, Andy Dufresne (Timothy Robbins) imprisoned for the murder of his wife and her lover. The story is focused on his hope to find freedom outside of the prison walls. He makes an unlikely friend in Red (Morgan Freeman), a wise, grandfatherly character who speaks wisdom into this young man. He warns him about his escape plan by saying, “hope is a dangerous thing”.
I understand what Red means. As a pastor, I hear a lot of hope spill out of people. As I counsel them, I can see how hope is hurtful when it is fixed on a desired outcome and nothing else. Some of the problematic hope projected in my office includes:
- “I truly hope my husband has a change of mind” (he left her two months later)
- “I don’t understand why I am still single, is it too much for me to hope that I can get married” (she is 46 and still no prospect of a mate)
- “We have tried for 9 years to have a baby, were still hoping for a miracle” (three years later, infertility is still a struggle)
- “I’m hoping to get into USC this fall after two failed attempts” (he failed getting in on his third attempt)
- “I hope I get this promotion. I’ve worked three and a half years and I should know soon” (she was fired three weeks later)
Each of these individuals in my office expressed hope, but in every case, their hopes were dashed on the rocks of reality. I know that disappointment well personally, as I’ve fixed my hope on so many things only to be thoroughly disappointed.
This journey of disappointment changed for me when I began to understand a different type of hope: a hope that was not fixed on a desire but on a person, the person of God Himself.
In the Bible, God is spoken as “the God of hope”. He is the Author, not the Subject, of it. The kind of hope God calls us to is something greater than ourselves, it is not dependent on circumstances, or feelings, or dreams; it is fixed on the person of God Himself.
In Psalm 39:7 the writer proclaims “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in thee.” Psalm 71:5 confidently says, “For thou art my hope; O Lord God. Thou art my confidence from my youth.”
In Romans 5:5 the Apostle Paul writes, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit that was given to us.”
Paul goes on to pray in Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Hope is a common and powerful theme throughout the Scriptures.
The word for hope in the Bible means a favorable or confident expectation. Despite the unseen future, I put my trust in God. I believe that He is working on my behalf and whatever he allows to happen, it is for my good.
That is a dangerous hope because it calls me into a courageous trust of the one who made me, the one who sustains me, and the one that will one day take me home. When we trust God, He shows Himself to be trustworthy and comes through on my behalf. This gives us all a story that needs to be told, in a world of hopelessness and disillusionment, you and I have the opportunity to proclaim that there is a God in Heaven who is powerful, loving, and relishes in the opportunity to bless His children (James 1:17).
Hope may be dangerous, but I have lived on both sides of this – trusting in myself and my hopes for the future rather than trusting God and hoping in Him for my future. Hands down, the benefits of hoping in God far outweigh hoping in myself, or in this world.
- What are some of the things you have hoped for that just did not materialize. What did you learn?
- How would your life be different if you hoped in a person, in God Himself?
- Would you tell others when He came through? Have you?