The Use of Hope in the Bible and How It Matches with the Science of Hope

The Use of Hope in the Bible and How It Matches with the Science of Hope

On a day filled with routine responsibilities and repetitive tasks, a group of shepherds watched over their flocks when the unexpected happened: an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared. We can instinctively feel and imagine what they felt - fear, terror, and uncertainty of what would happen next. The angel, sensing their fear and trepidation, said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Lk 2:8-11 NIV).

On that day HOPE was born.

Do we believe Christ brings hope? Can we trust God and the Bible when we are encouraged to have hope? Absolutely! Believers don’t think of hope as being wishful thinking. They don’t say, “I hope God is real;” “I hope Jesus rose from the dead;” or “I hope there is a heaven.”

Instead, Christians throughout time have hope because they have seen God working in people’s lives. They have hope because they believe the evidence that Jesus rose from the grave and is alive. And they have hope in a future better than today because they confidently believe in God’s promises.

Dr. Chan Hellman has spent nearly two decades studying hope. Based on numerous research studies, he has found that hope is the best predictor of a person’s overall wellbeing. His teachings are not self-help, home-spun suggestions; they are findings based on scientific research. Yet, because some scientists have used their own humanistic beliefs to attack God, creation, and faith, believers are often hesitant to trust certain aspects of science.

Dr. Hellman understands the struggles people face. He has experienced his own trauma and knows the challenges of having trusting relationships. More importantly though, he trusts in God and puts his faith and hope in what God has said and promised because he believes the evidence. His work is meant to show the full power of hope, not minimize the hope believers have in God.

Let’s face it, not everyone is a believer. However, that doesn’t keep us from sharing the gift of the gospel. We believe it is good news! The Science of Hope is also good news in its own way. Utilizing a framework based on goals, pathways, and willpower, we can share the social gift of hope in a way that might open a person’s mind towards not only the accomplishment of their goals, but to the fulfillment of God’s ultimate goal: that all people are saved through the hope they have in Jesus Christ (I Tim 2:4).

The key to understanding the compatibility of Biblical Hope with the Science of Hope is found in first understanding how hope is defined and second comparing Scripture with Dr. Hellman’s findings.

In the Hebrew language, qawa, often denotes “trust” such as the trust Jeremiah has in God, “Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this” (Jer. 14:22). The Old Testament also uses hope in a way that means being expectantly hopeful such as when the Psalmist exclaims, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope” (Ps. 130:5).[1]

In the Greek, hope is elpis and is defined as “confident expectation. There is no doubt; it’s certain. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Romans, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom. 8:24-25). [2]

What follows are six of Dr. Hellman’s foundational truths of hope identified through his research. Under each heading are verses discussing hope from a Biblical perspective. Make no mistake – hope is powerful - its why God gave us the ability to have hope and why hope is central to His work and our faith. This paper is meant to serve only as an introduction to the compatibility of Biblical Hope and the Science of Hope. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on this important topic.

1. Hope is way of thinking, not an emotion.

Micah 7:7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

Lamentations 3:21-22 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

Romans 5:1-5 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 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.

1 Timothy 4:10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

1 Peter 1:21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

2. Imagination is the instrument of hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Titus 2:11-13 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.

3. Hope is not wishful thinking.

Isaiah 40:31 But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Romans 8:24-25 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.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

4. Hope begets hope.

Psalm 33:20 We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

Romans 4:18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

5. Hope is a social gift.

Acts 24:15 And I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

1 Corinthians 13:6-8, 13 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails…. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Philippians 2:19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.

6. Hope can be taught and learned.

Psalm 25:5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

7. Hope is a significant predictor of well-being.

Job 11:18 You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.

Psalm 71:14 As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.

2 Corinthians 1:10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

Hebrews 6:11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.

Scripture references are New International Version (NIV) from

The Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

[1] Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology – Hope.

[2] Thayer’s Greek Lexicon – elpis.