The two French words for “hope” helped me endure the pandemic

During a recent exchange with a colleague whom I knew to be quite ambitious, a few of his words stood out to me: “I would rather live a difficult present with my resources than continue to save resources for an uncertain future. Who knows? The way things are going, the world could end tomorrow.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many to believe that it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep dreaming and believing in a better future.

Like my colleague, many around us have abandoned projects and are affected by various levels of depression that prevent them from looking to the future. Some succumbed to suicide when they saw no other way out or because they could not imagine living without their close family members tragically killed by the virus. Many hopes have been dashed.

In my country, Benin, many companies have been forced to reduce their working hours, which has led to layoffs. Some families struggle to meet their basic needs. Some products that are now hard to get.

And that’s not all. The International Labor Organization announcement last year that “global unemployment will reach 205 million people by 2022”. How not to lose hope in the face of these challenges?

two kinds of hope

Unlike English, which uses the word hope basically, the French language uses two words that derive from the word to hope (to hope): hope and expectation. Both can first refer to something hoped for. In this sense, the word hope generally refers to an uncertain object; that is, someone who hopes for something in this way does not have certainty that it will happen (“I hope the weather is good tomorrow”). On the other hand, hope describes what, rightly or wrongly, is hoped or expected with certainty. It often refers to a philosophical or eschatological object (“I hope in the goodness of men”; “I hope for the return of Jesus Christ”).

When we talk about hope Where hope, we then have in mind different types of expected objects. This difference is important because both terms also commonly refer to the state of mind that characterizes hope. And this state of mind will be different precisely according to the desired object.

Having hope because an uncertain but better future in these difficult times can be a good thing, but it is not enough. Such hope can be dashed and fade easily when our wishes and expectations (our hopes) do not materialize.

The reverse is true with hope, which is deeper than our desire and wish for an end to a crisis or a future without pain and suffering. To face the trials of life, we need peace and joy in our hearts that come from the expectation of a certain happiness. What’s this hope is: a deep and stable disposition resulting from faith in the coming of what we expect. In this sense, it has a similar meaning to the English word hope.

If we have believed in the Son of the living God, we have such a hope. It rests on the infallible promises of our God, who knows the plans he has for us, his children, plans for peace and not for misfortune, to give us hope and a future (Jr 29:11). Using both senses of the word, we can say that the hope which the fulfillment of his promises represents (the hoped-for object) fills us with hope (state of mind).

God is for us the source of an unfailing hope. It’s reassuring ! So how do we live out this hope in the midst of trials?

A way of living

Several months ago, my sister participated in a training program in a country where the number of victims of the pandemic was constantly increasing. She was about to return home when many governments decided to close their airports. Exiled in a foreign land, in a country under the pressure of a pandemic, in the midst of her fears, she decided to trust God.

“A stranger helped me contact the organizers of the training I had attended. He put me in touch with a man of God who then took me in. The times of meditation, prayer and sharing, with my sister from a distance and with my host family, were of real support to me in times of general panic”, she says after her return to the House.

I have been living with my sister for almost six years. We have faced many situations together. The worries of one immediately become prayer points for the other. She was finally able to come back and resume her work, but the five months she was away for training and confinement, with all the uncertainties of those times, was also a real test of my faith. Yet, with our hope in the Lord, I was able to overcome the loneliness and we stood firm despite real financial and professional challenges.

By paying attention to God’s faithfulness in times of joy or difficulty, we learn to make hope our way of life. And that prepares us.

We each have our trials of varying intensity. Many who have been tested much more heavily than us during this crisis have seen their expectations crumble. But what we experienced at our level drew my attention to the crucial importance of a hope-like hope.

In a CT article titled “Our Longing Is Spiritually Dangerous,” Jeremy Sabella points out: “Hope, in its full biblical sense, is born of trial: ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; character produces hope. This hope endures precisely because it is the work of the Spirit: “hope does not confuse us, for the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” ( Rom. 5, 3). –5). Hope takes root as God’s people follow the promptings of the Spirit to face the present trial.

Hope manifests its depth when it remains active in the midst of trials. The hope of which the Bible speaks, the hope that Christ has placed in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, is a constant support that will never fail.

Testimonies of Hope in Trials

Hope does not protect us from the trials and difficulties of life, but it helps us to overcome them with serenity and joy. Scripture reminds us of this.

“Against all hope Abraham believed in hope, and thus became the father of many nations” (Romans 4:18). Who could still hope to conceive a child at 100 with a 90-year-old woman? Abraham did it! Who can still hope for a future without pain and suffering? We can! For a Christian, hope in difficult times shows full trust in the One who promised to make all things new: God.

Job, having lost everything and living in an almost indescribable situation, confidently and persistently expressed his true hope when he said, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth” (Job 19:25). The continuation of Job’s story shows how his hope was rewarded (42:10).

In the midst of the fiercest storms imaginable (rejection, persecution, etc.), the apostle Paul did not lose his hope either. Whether the situation is favorable to him or not, he believes and awaits with patience and joy the glorious future that is reserved for him. It was in the midst of these sufferings that he wrote several letters to Christians in different cities encouraging them to develop and keep their hope in the Lord. Note this excerpt addressed to the Christians of Rome who were also going through difficult times: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and all peace as you trust in him, that you may overflow with hope by the power of ‘Holy Spirit’ (Rom. 15:13).

Hope together

In our country, as in many others, quarantine times have brought more Christian meetings online for prayer and encouragement. When asked what a Christian community that collectively hopes looks like, a sister in Christ said to me, “It looks like a strong tower, like an unshakable army!

Yes, a community filled with hope is a real support for the world in the face of trials and difficulties. It offers resistance in the face of despair and discouragement. It is a light that shines in the dark.

I rejoice to see, like the apostle Paul, many Christian communities continue to share the comforting message of hope, despite their various struggles. Throughout this crisis, I am grateful to have read articles from Christians like Jay Y. Kim, Anne Lecu, Kelly B. Trujillo, and many others who have taken to writing to send their message of hope to the world. The line of witnesses to hope is not extinguished.

We are all facing this global crisis, as well as our personal problems and daily difficulties. We are all affected in one way or another, and some in terribly tragic ways. But our attitude towards all this is decisive.

My prayer is that no matter what darkness we go through, our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ always remains alive, active and practical. It may not be easy, but together “let us hold fast to the hope that we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).

Syntyche D. Dahou is an administrative assistant. She is involved in the Biblical Group of Students and Students of Benin (GBEEB), a member movement of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students). She is passionate about Christian literature and is interested in ministry through Christian publications.

Translation completed by Sarah Buki

[ This article is also available in
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Julio V. Miller