Our pastor preached a sermon on hope, defining hope as a desire. I wondered at one point during the sermon what distinguished faith and hope, and I think that if hope is a desire, that distinguishes them.
Faith is not a desire, it is a certainty. As Pieper defines faith, it is a certainty based on the character of the speaker. Nobody speaks the way God does, and when he promises, we can believe it. We can believe it based on the one speaking and nothing else, however wonderful the promise. Faith then gives rise to hope, because we desire what we do not yet have, what we do not yet even begin to understand, having only suggestions sometimes to go on.
How can these things be? asks Mary. Is anything too wonderful for God? the angel reasonably replies. But who can imagine, let alone understand what wonders appeared to this creature’s mind, let alone God’s own mind?
Hope, of course, is not a wrong desiring nor a desiring of a wrong object. It is not restless or grasping, but is eager and wholesome. We hope for what we do not have because it has been promised to us. And it is wrong to stop hoping, to stop desiring all the promises of God in which we believe. And it is in this that one can see how hope is more than expectation: it is eager expectation, it is glad anticipation, not dry anticipation. It is part of the theological virtues because it is something of the most passionate inwardness, a religious affection.
And our pastor’s exhortation to us was not to abandon hope in the present situation. Hope dwells with eagerness on that which one already does but altogether does not yet possess. It does this without disturbing our Christian contentment. It is, it seems to me, the line drawn between complacency and contentment I have been searching for for months, distinguishing below it that which is disordered and destructive and that above it which is the order of true prosperity and real health.