One of the activities I enjoy doing each day is the crossword puzzle in my local newspaper. I’ve done them for years, putting pen to paper day after day. When we do anything for an extended period, we obviously learn it better. We also begin to pick up on things such as hidden clues and repetition. One specific clue that has been repeated recently is “Fingers crossed!” The answer is two words and five letters. Can you guess it?
It’s shown up a few times over the past couple weeks and while I know it right away now it took me a second to figure out what the clue was hinting at when I first encountered it, just hoping I could figure it out (pun). Just like I was hoping for something as simple as being able to complete the crossword puzzle, we spend our time hoping for a lot of other things too. We hope there isn’t traffic, that our favorite sports team will win, for job promotions, for a favorable diagnosis and so much more. What else can you add to the list?
These hopes all come with a fair amount of uncertainty, however. We can certainly desire things go one way but, as we know all too well, those hopes, however big or small, can be dashed in a moment. These hopes, then, are just that, desires. And those desires may or may not be ultimately realized.
These sorts of hopes and desires we extend to our present circumstances are really “fingers crossed” and “we’ll see how it goes” postures. Sure, some situations may seem clearer than others, but those others might come down to 50-50 odds. Will it happen or not?
Even as Christians, we hope in this kind of “fingers crossed” way, and that’s not inherently bad. What we need to remember, though, is that we also carry a hope much more sure, much more concrete and a hope that is ultimately much more than we can ask or think.
The hope we carry is offered in these sorts of ways in the New Testament:
“Since we have such a hope, we are very bold…”
2 Corinthians 3:12
“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call…”
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel…”
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began…”
“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
These are just some examples pointing to our Christian hope. This hope is different, however, than a “fingers crossed” hope—it’s really anything but an uncertain wishing. The Bible also uses this other kind of hope, the kind of hope the crossword puzzles reference:
“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.”
“I hope to come to you soon…”
1 Timothy 3:14a
“Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
2 John 1:12
“I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.”
3 John 1:14
This kind of hope expects or anticipates based on whatever measures one may take to ensure something happens. Someone may hope, in this way, to win the spelling bee, visit a friend or mow the lawn this evening, but these, and things like them, are dependent on the effort that person is willing to give. They can hope all they want, but they or someone else will have to act to see it come to pass—and we’ll see if that happens.
But our Christian hope looks forward to something and waits, with confidence, in its fulfillment. It’s a waiting with confident expectation because it’s not dependent on any of us, unlike the wishful “fingers crossed.” God has already done the thing! We don’t have to get into gear or wish someone else would. We have a Savior who has already risen that this may be true:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
For now, we hope. For now we wait with confident expectation for this and all God has ahead because of who he is and what he’s done.
No fingers crossed.