The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Hope
"Hoping against hope, Abraham believed, and thus became the father of many nations." // Catechism of the Catholic Church 1819
No statement better summarizes Abraham, the "archetype of hope" unto whom God promised to make a great nation (see Genesis 12:1-4). But ninety-nine years passed and Abraham still had no heirs (see Genesis 17:1-2), yet he continued to "hope against hope" (Romans 4:18).
"Hope against hope." According to commentators, Paul contrasted between two hopes: human hope and supernatural Hope. In ancient Greece, hope apart from God was recognized as elpis, taking after the minor Greek goddess who was hopelessly delusional, cursed by the gods and doomed to tragic fate. Elpis therefore was not a virtue, but vice, a reflection of what hope is like when God is removed. Paul was therefore warning us against the relative “hope so” hopes that surround us daily, those that tempt us, and those that delude us from our deepest longing.
Abraham’s story reminds us that supernatural Hope is not always reasonable. Sometimes it demands we believe that it can burst forth from the womb of a wrinkled old-timer. Or that a virgin will conceive and bear a Son. Or that a crucified criminal can enter paradise at his last hour.
No wonder when Sarah’s cynical laughter subsided, she (and us) are met with “Is anything impossible for God?” A question, because Hope demands a decision.
How often are we tempted to answer it too quickly, or superficially, or even cynically to suggest “Yes, some things are impossible, even for God—if there is a God, why do we suffer?”
This may have been the world Abraham and Sarah had come to live in, a world where you finally come to terms with barrenness at 90 years old. Yet, this was not the Hope Abraham clung to.
The supernatural hope Abraham seized transformed his view to see a world with staggering possibilities—a world where old women have babies, slaves march through open seas, and the dead rise again. This hope freed him from the grasp of self-preservation and offered him security beyond the blade on Mount Moriah. This Hope gave him courage to come out of his "tent," look to the sky, and see Jesus glorified in the future (see John 8:56).
In our barrenness and brokenness, don’t we, too, struggle with the question, “Is anything impossible with God”?
Yet, like Abraham, we can hope against hope. Remember, Abraham received only a “shadow of good things to come” as He beheld Isaac, the promised child of laughter. In our time, God’s promises find their “Yes” and “Amen” in the Resurrected Christ, our Ultimate Hope, unto Whom nothing—absolutely nothing—is impossible.
The supernatural hope Abraham seized transformed his view to see a world with staggering possibilities—a world where old women have babies, slaves march through open seas, and the dead rise again. #prayerpledge // Click to tweet
Let Us Pray
Risen Lord, may we, like Abraham, possess an unwavering hope in You. May nothing ever cause us to doubt Your promises and provision. May we always look to You with confidence when we face the impossible. Amen!
When is a time in your life in which you "hoped against hope"? How did that shift your perspective on a situation?
In what areas of your life are you "laughing" right now at a seemingly impossible circumstance? How is the Lord inviting you to hope there?