Posted by: Mike Willoughby | March 15, 2011

A Roller Coaster Life for Hope

Over the past several weeks, I have been using a roller coaster metaphor to describe the way life sometimes feels and how I feel about the words Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5. Roller coasters can be scary but if you are willing to get on the ride, it’s because you trust the designer of the ride. You trust the designer to have designed, tested and certified the ride to be a safe form of entertainment. In the same way, I believe the designer of the universe has designed your life with all of its exciting features with specific objectives in mind that are in your eternal best interest.

First, the passage again:

We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.

The passage ends with these words of promise that “this hope will never disappoint us.” I think this is the great promise from the designer of life to each of us. As much as I may appreciate the lessons in patience and the opportunity for character building experiences, I have to admit to myself that the sufferings that lead to patience and good character also bring very real disappointment in this life. Paul writes that good character development leads to something called “this hope.” This hope must be something amazing because unlike so much of this life, here is something that is guaranteed to never disappoint. I want that!

So what is this thing called “this hope?” I remember old time preachers that would begin every sermon by quoting Miriam Webster. I never really liked sermons that quoted the dictionary, but I decided to go there anyway in search of a definition. In the Romans passage, hope is used as a noun although it is also frequently used as a verb in the Bible as well. An online dictionary says hope is…

  • the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best: to have hope.
  • a particular instance of this feeling: the hope of winning
  • grounds for this feeling in a particular instance: there is little or no hope of his recovery.

See the pattern? So this thing that is guaranteed to not disappoint is something as ethereal as a feeling? I’m not feeling too good about any of these definitions so far.


  • a person or thing in which expectations are centered: the medicine was her last hope.
  • something that is hoped for: her forgiveness is my constant hope.
  • the theological virtue (at last something that sounds close) defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God’s help.

So the promise in this passage is difficult to obtain even with God’s help??? That sounds like a distant hope at best. How about proper nouns?

  • A female given name (I like it! It doesn’t help me much, though)
  • Bob (as in Bob Hope)
  • John Hope, a famous U.S. educator lived from 1868-1936 (I didn’t know him – how famous can he be?)
  • A town in southwest Arkansas, population 10,290 (been there)

Not much help at all! No wonder I don’t like sermons that quote the dictionary! So what is “this hope” Paul writes about in Romans 5?

It seems to me the first two sets of definitions for “hope” really define a “wish.” I may wish that events would turn out for the best. I may wish for a winning lottery ticket. I may wish for the forgiveness of another. Even the last definition of the “theological virtue” seemed to be without basis for any expectation of fulfillment. A wish is a desire for a future outcome without any real expectation for that outcome. When we throw a coin in a wishing fountain or wish upon a falling star, we do not turn from making that wish with earnest expectation for fulfillment. We do not act as though there is any promise implied by the wish. That is because there is no promise implied by a wish!

Paul says that hope is a promise that will never disappoint. I once read a salesmanship book by Rick Page titled, “Hope is not a strategy.” After reading the book, I believe it should have been titled, “Wishing is not a strategy” and I agree with that premise. Hope should not be confused with wishing. In order to be a promise, there must be an expectation for fulfillment. Wishing is not a promise but biblical hope is a promise. I believe that not only is Hope a strategy, I believe Hope is the only real strategy that is guaranteed not to fail!

So, all I’ve done so far is explore what hope isn’t. What is the definition of hope? The reality is that “this hope” is a biblical concept that is a complex subject that defies a simple dictionary definition. I believe that hope is both a state of being and a very real destination. In order to explain what I mean, I will take the next couple of weeks to explore why I believe Hope is not only a strategy, Hope is the best strategy. Sorry for leaving the roller coaster series with a cliff hanger ending, but HOPE deserves its own series!


Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Previous Intersections Articles

A Roller Coaster Life for Character (Part 2) A Roller Coaster Life for Character A Roller Coaster Life for Dependence


Copyright © 2011 Michael Willoughby. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to author and/or owner with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Can’t wait for next week.

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