Which Old Testament character had the most to say about hope? Job. Surprised? Me too – at first. But the more I study Job’s story, the more I realize that hope enabled Job’s faith to soar above adversity.
American poet Emily Dickinson described hope this way:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune—without the words,
And never stops at all.
Her perspective on hope always makes me think of Job. Because hope was perched in his soul, he could sing faith’s tune when everyone around him – including his wife and four less-than-helpful friends – was chanting a dirge of doom.
Job’s Song of Hope
The Bible says Job was “blameless – a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil” (Job 1:1, NLT). Even as he mourned the death of all his children, along with the destruction of all his crops and cattle, even as he scraped his sores with pottery fragments, he composed these lyrics for his song of hope: “I know that my redeemer lives…and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (19:25-26).
Job didn’t capture that hope on his own. It lived in Job’s soul because he walked with God. In 23:12, Job says, “I have not departed from the commands of [God’s] lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” His hope lyrics sprang from knowledge of God and devotion to him.
But keeping hope on its perch wasn’t easy. Other verses reveal Job’s internal battle:
- “Why did I not perish at birth?” (3:11).
- “What strength do I have, that I should still hope?” (6:11).
- “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope” (7:6).
- “Who can see any hope for me?” (17:15).
Nevertheless, Job didn’t allow the hawk of despair to drive away the songbird of hope. In chapter 14 he asks, “If someone dies, will they live again?” He then adds these lyrics to his song of hope: “All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come” (v. 14).
That confidence in eternal life is one reason Job didn’t follow his wife’s advice to “curse God and die” (1:9). Hope triumphed because Job believed that earthly suffering would pale in comparison when he saw God with his own eyes (19:27).
Joni’s Song of Hope
Joni Eareckson Tada is a contemporary example of someone whose suffering hasn’t pushed her hope off its perch. At age 18, she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. Like Job, she asked God tough questions:
- Do you toss the dice and paralyze people along the way? Or throw in a little cancer?
- What God of compassion wouldn’t want to heal a young person in a wheelchair?¹
The hawk of despair attacked, but the songbird of hope triumphed in Joni’s heart:
How could I doubt the one who gave his life up for me?…How could I not believe him?
Lord, your no answer to physical healing meant yes to a deeper healing—a better one. Your answer has bound me to other believers and taught me so much about myself. It’s purged sin from my life, it’s strengthened my commitment to you, forced me to depend on your grace. Your wiser, deeper answer has stretched my hope, refined my faith, and helped me to know you better. And you are good. You are so good.²
Joni added those hope-filled lyrics to faith’s tune. She pushed aside unanswerable questions and relied on God’s promises to her:
- We will be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).
- Our current troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).
- The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).
- One day we will see God’s face, and we will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:4-5).
Our Song of Hope
Like Job and Joni, the severity of suffering needn’t make us doubt God’s love or his ability to restore what has been lost.
Trying to explain suffering will inevitably lead us into more suffering: anxiety, anger, depression, bitterness. But the God who loves us has not designed us to live that way. He longs for us to choose hope and trust in him.
Where do we find such a hope? Jesus told the twelve disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis mine).
Jesus triumphed over the worst suffering of all – eternal destruction – so we would never experience it:
…that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:18-21, emphasis mine)
Add those words to your song of hope. In Jesus, you can have peace, eternal peace that enables you to rest in spite of your temporary, though painful, circumstances. You can rest in Jesus’ victory over all sin, suffering, and death. That’s the rest he promises in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Ask him for that rest.
Through his Son, God gives each of us the opportunity to know him intimately and trust him confidently.
Is this hope perched in your soul?