Most people do not consider hope a “virtue”—a moral value to strive towards. Many would prefer to think of it as a state of mind. Hope is the idea that things are getting better, but it isn’t right or wrong for you to have hope or despair—those are just two equal ways of seeing the world.
In traditional Christianity, however, hope is a virtue. Christians have a duty to cultivate a positive outlook and expect the joys of Heaven to come true. As Saint Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This duty to enjoy good things does not mean ignoring the evils around us, but seeing the redemptive power of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection triumph over them. Christians are to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15) because both sorrow and joy are parts of Jesus’ story—and they point to the highest hope of heaven, eternal union with the God who is the source of all good things.
In a world darkened by sin and death, maintaining this expectation of good things to come can be a herculean struggle—but it also transforms our daily life and work.
Hope in Our Work
If work were always fun, it would not be called work. Whether you serve lattes as a barista at Starbucks, manage accounts for the wealthy at JP Morgan, or run your own business, you meet constant demands from customers, clients, and bosses. Requests pile up, deadlines loom, and there never seems to be enough vacation.
[pq]Maintaining the expectation of good things to come can transform our daily life and work.[/pq]
Worse, some of us may work hard and add value to our organizations but nevertheless get laid off or stuck in a rut, longing for a nonexistent promotion. Many of us have to take jobs beneath our skill level, at wages below our true potential. In these times especially, we need the eternal perspective of hope.
Amidst all the stresses of work, Christians find an attitude of service and joy. In 1 Corinthians 9, Saint Paul advises Christians to work hard, comparing the struggles of the Christian life to an Olympic race. “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” The raise or promotion we look forward to pales in comparison with the eternal glory of being co-heirs with Christ.
Do your daily work with the assurance that God will establish your plans. Your work matters in this life—even if it seems like it doesn’t—and it matters even more in the infinite glory of the world to come.
Hope in the Body
The Bible speaks about human bodies as broken and in need of restoration.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)
Christians believe that our bodies which naturally break down and die will be made new—perfect and everlasting. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul speaks of the resurrection of the body, saying “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Physical ailments such as disease, cramps, and toothaches, along with the sinful dispositions of the body such as hunger which drives us to gluttony, dangerous addictions like alcoholism, and the fleeting lustful desires of the mind, all will go away.
As we struggle daily with broken bodies, we can look forward to the redemption and the resurrection promised in scripture. If nothing else, this will lessen the burdens we face.
Hope in Social Justice to Come
One of the most encouraging promises of God throughout the entire Bible is the declaration that He will defend the widow and the orphan, and bring true justice to those who suffer on earth.
Many movements aim to serve the disadvantaged, but as Jesus said the poor will always to be with us. Powerful political movements have brought down the proud and exalted the humble, but they always fail to create their envisioned utopias.
That does not mean Christians should give up, however. Reaching out to the poor and lonely with God’s love and hope for ultimate redemption is our duty. Hope in God’s ultimate justice gives us the inspiration to do our part without constantly worrying about the inherent failures of society.
Saint John in Revelation presents a final vision of a new heavens and a new earth—where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4). A new order, where our work is honored, our bodies restored, and our wrongs are made right—that is what Christians look forward to, and that is why we can have joy despite our difficult circumstances.