Christian Living

What Does Hope Mean?

The World’s Understanding of Hope Pales in Comparison to the Bible’s

As followers of Jesus, we put our hope in him. But what does it mean to hope? The world’s understanding of hope isn’t very comforting. And the dictionary doesn’t do so well at aligning its definition with how Scripture uses the word.

Hoping Is Not Wishing

The dictionary defines hope as to “wish for an event to occur.” It also talks about a “longing or desire.”

In this context, we may hope for a particular gift for our birthday. We may hope our most recent purchase accomplishes what we want it to. Or we may hope to have a good day or a safe trip.

In each of these examples, this hope is little more than a wish. These types of hopes are just a longing or a desire.

Yet when the Bible talks about are hope in God, it’s much more than a wish. It’s more than a longing or a desire. Yes, an expectant hope may at some base level be a wish, a longing, or a desire, but to be of any significance, our hope must transcend these basic understandings.


The thesaurus tells us that two synonyms for hope are believe and belief. This gets us closer to a biblical hope. When we hope in God, we believe in him and what he says. We believe in his promises.

Yet too often today when we use the word believe it’s a little more than a wishful expectation, a desire to realize a certain outcome, a longing for what we want to see happen.

Confident Trust

Interestingly, a secondary meaning for the word hope occurs in the dictionary. It’s listed as archaic, meaning that this understanding of the word has fallen out of normal usage. What is this archaic definition of hope? Quite simply it’s to have “confidence” or “trust.”

When we place our hope in God, we have a confident trust in who he is and what he will do for us and through us. This sounds very much like faith. Faith is a belief in God, confident and unquestioning.

Hope in the Bible

The word hope occurs throughout the Bible, equally distributed between the Old and New Testaments. Psalms, with its many faith-filled songs of praise to God, leads the Bible with the most occurrences of hope at thirty-four.

Consider “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:5, NIV). This confident declaration certainly transcends wishful thinking. So it should be when we place our hope in God.

In the New Testament, Romans is the most hope-filled book, with the word appearing in fourteen verses.

Here are two of them: “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24-25, NIV).

Or how about “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).

Hope in God

When we place our hope in Jesus, for both now and for eternity, it’s not just something we wish will occur or that we long for. It’s much more. Our hope is something we believe in with a confident trust that it will occur, that we can count on it.

This is real hope.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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