In God We Trust/Hope
On every minted coin of United States currency is a little phrase, “In God We Trust.” This is kind of ironic because money is often what people trust in more than God. Perhaps it should say, “In This We Trust.” Perhaps the phrase is a reminder that we shouldn’t trust in money but rather in God alone. This is what the Apostle Paul is saying in today’s Epistle reading from the 32nd Sunday (1Timothy 4:9-15). 10For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
Now some translations say ‘hope’ instead of ‘trust’ but these words are synonymous and interchangeable.
How important is trust and hope? For the human person, hope is the foundation of our existence. Nearly everything we do is based on hope and trust. Think about it, every action is undertaken with a hope that it will produce something good, something better than what was before. Fr. Anthony Coniaris, in his book “Treasures from St. Paul’s Letters vol. 1, writes about his passage saying that the farmer plants a seed, the minister preaches, the mother carries her unborn child, the student studies, and the surgeon operates, all of them with hope.
Dr. Viktor Frankl, who survived the Nazi concentration camps, says the most important factor in staying alive was hope. He saw hundreds of inmates die simply because they had given up hope. Fr. Roman Braga, who spent over ten years in prison under Communism in Romania, some of those years in solitary confinement, said the same. Prisoners without hope either died or went insane.
Medical doctors tell us that loss of hope often hastens the arrival of death in patients. Emil Brunner wrote, “What oxygen is for the human lungs, such is hope for the meaning of human life…as the fate of the human is dependent on the supply of oxygen, so the fate of humanity is dependent on its supply of hope.” Without food man can survive for close to thirty days; without water he can survive only three days; without air he survive only three minutes; but without hope he might destroy himself in an even shorter time.
Dr. John Stehlin said, “A person may be physically alive, but if he has given up hope, then to me, he is a dead patient…no patient is ever hopeless. His physical condition may be incurable, but he is not hopeless. Hopelessness is a state of mind. It’s a giving up. A pit of nothingness.”
The mood of hopelessness was started by European existentialists that saw anxiety and neurosis as permanent characteristics of the human condition. The philosopher Nietzsche said, “Hope is the worst of all evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.” The existentialists set the groundwork for the likes of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. We know that led to one of the darkest periods in human history, 20th century communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Lenin taught that religion was the opiate of the masses and sought to eradicate it like an illegal drug or a disease.
Christians, the followers of Jesus Christ, are indeed optimists. But our optimism is not based on a shallow wish or false hope. Rather, it is based on God and what He, in the person of Christ, has done and continues to do for mankind. He bestows forgiveness. He destroys death by His death. God created human beings in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Hope is part of that image. It is an indelible part of our human nature.
The Scriptures have a lot to say about hope. First, they tell us why we should hope in God.
- 33These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
- 16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)
- 18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
- 28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
- 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... 38For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 38-39)
- Epistle of Orthodox Funeral Service
- 13But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1Thessalonians 4:13-14)
In other words, whatever happens to us, we hope that God will bring good out of evil, granting life in death.
19This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, Hebrews 6:19
24For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
Have we ever felt hopeless and in the depths of despair? It might be because we live as if God were dead, despite our claim to be Christians. We must examine at our thoughts, words and actions to see if we indeed hope in God.
12that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12)
Prayer is an exercise of hope. If we don’t exercise it, we will lose it. Do we have a regular habit or rule of prayer? Do we set aside time each day just for prayer?
25But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. 26Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:24-26)
Perhaps we do hope but it is a false hope. Mankind puts a lot of faith in a variety of false hopes: progress, science, humanism, communism, education, politics, state run welfare, and government. All of these are secular substitutes for the Kingdom of God. They consistently let us down and produce greater hopelessness than ever before.
In conclusion, it is extremely important to remember that there are no hopeless situations in life; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them. One person said to another, “Suffering colors all of life, doesn’t it?” The other replied, “Yes it does, but I get to choose the color.” Listen to the promises of God given through the prophets and the righteous:
- 5Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God, (Psalm 146:5)
- 7"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. (Jeremiah 17:7)
- 1But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. 2In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, 3And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. 4For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4)
- 13The spirit of those that fear the Lord shall live; for their hope is in Him that saves them. 14Whoso fears the Lord shall not fear nor be afraid; for he is his hope. (Sirach 34:13-14)
- 3And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
4But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' " (Deut.8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4) Have hope in God! You cannot live without it.