Our culture often defines hope as merely a fanciful wish or a casual desire:
“I hope tomorrow is a better day.”
“I hope to go to Disney World next year.”
“I hope the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.”
Clearly, what is hoped for may or may not come to pass. The hope of believers, however, is more than a desire or a wish. It’s an unshakable confidence in God — even when circumstances give us every reason to doubt.
G.K. Chesterton observed that hope only has any real meaning when things are hopeless. “As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is a mere flattery or platitude,” he wrote. “It is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.”
Parents must teach their children the difference between our culture’s view of hope and the hope we have in Christ. Hope is not mere optimism or wishful thinking; it’s an essential part of our faith. When we hope in the Lord, as mentioned 23 times in the Psalms, the following benefits await us.
Hope in the Lord gives us strength. Our culture teaches us to have self-confidence, but believers are to place their confidence in the Lord. When we hope in Him, we find the confidence and strength to face any challenge that comes our way.
Hope in the Lord teaches us patience. Society encourages us to solve our own problems. But when we face an impossible or hopeless situation, we must learn to wait patiently on the Lord. We do not need to be anxious or worried. We can find peace in God’s unfailing love for us.
Hope in the Lord brings encouragement. You know that feeling you get at the end of a long week? The anticipation of the weekend lifts your spirits. Now think about stretching that weekend out for eternity. We can find encouragement and joy amid life’s struggles because we know we will live forever with Jesus. That is why we are told to anticipate His glorious return (Titus 2:13).
Because of Jesus, we have hope both for this life and for eternity. Help your child learn more about our hope in Christ with the following age-appropriate activities and discussions.
- Hope is an unshakable confidence in God, despite one’s circumstances.
- Hope is essential to a believer’s faith.
- Hope gives strength, teaches patience and brings encouragement.
Family Memory Verse
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
For a closer look at what the Bible says about hope, read these passages:
- Psalm 20:6-8
- Psalm 25:3
- Jeremiah 29:11
- Romans 5:1-5
- Romans 8:20-25
- 1 Timothy 6:17
Use this activity to help your child understand that putting our trust in Jesus gives us hope. Tell your child you are going to play a game of hide-and-seek with a toy. Ask him to choose a special toy, and reassure your child that he can trust you to hide his toy in a safe place.
Choose a hiding place that is unlikely to be discovered without your help. When your child has searched for a while and seems ready to give up the hunt, offer to help him. With verbal clues, lead your child to find his hidden toy.
As you celebrate together, thank your child for trusting you during the game. Explain that when he believed you would keep his toy safe, he was showing hope. He didn’t worry about his toy because he had hope that he would get it back safely. Just as your child trusted you to take care of a favorite toy, so we can trust God to take care of us.
Use this activity to help your children recognize the hope they have when they trust God to guide them.
Using books or pieces of cardboard, create a “steppingstone” path from one side of your living room to the other. Add small challenges along the way, perhaps a chair to climb over or narrow “balance beams” made of masking tape. As you work, talk about the obstacles we face in life: moving to a different school, making new friends, being sick.
Now place a blindfold over your child’s eyes. Explain that often we can’t see how to get through the obstacles in our lives. We may say that we “hope” to find our way through, but what are our chances?
Take your child’s hand and guide him along each step of the path, explaining that we can face the challenges of life because we know that God is with us. Even if we can’t always see where we’re headed, our hope comes from knowing that God directs our steps.
To teach your tween how hope in the Lord gives us strength, try this activity. Gather a paper towel, plastic bag and water gun. Choose one member of the family to hold the paper towel against his chest as a shield. Have another family member shoot the water gun at it. Before starting, ask: “Will the paper towel keep him from getting wet?” Discuss how the paper towel is not made of water-resistant material.
Repeat the activity, this time with a plastic bag as the shield. Ask the same question. Talk about the advantage of using a plastic shield because it is made of a trustworthy, waterproof material.
Talk with your kids about how self-confidence without reliance on God is like trusting the flimsy paper towel to keep you dry. You can hope that you stay safe from harm or hope you’re strong enough to withstand peer pressure, but you may not have what it takes on your own.
Instead, place your hope in God because He is the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator who gives you strength and confidence when you rely on Him. You can be confident that He will provide you with what you need to face any challenges that come your way.
Time With Your Teen
As teens ring in a new year, they often look to the future (or at least the next few months) with hope and youthful optimism. Hope is a good thing—it’s part of how God motivates us to keep growing and moving forward.
The danger, though, is that hope can become distorted into “if only” thinking. Your daughter’s hope to excel in school can become twisted into thinking her college future is set “if only” she gets an A in biology. Your trumpet-blowing son may think he’ll feel better about himself “if only” his marching band wins the regional competition.
That’s why it’s important to talk with your teen about the difference between having hope in “if only” scenarios and having hope in God. Your teen’s desires for the future may not come true, but he can still trust that God loves him and guides his life.
Talk together about your hopes for this new year. Whether you actually write out your resolutions or simply discuss them over dinner, broach the question of how it might feel if goals and dreams go unfulfilled.
Does your teen know where to put her hope if plans don’t go her way? Discuss Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” God is in control, and He cares for us. Rather than settling for an “if only” attitude, we can have confidence that God’s plans for us are best.