Hope vs Wishing – are we confused?

dandelionI was having a conversation the other day about the way (I think) we misuse the word “hope” in our society. It seems to me that we confuse the word “hope” with “wish” when speaking about things we’d like to happen or not happen.

In my opinion “wish” is usually self-focused, its about wanting something to work out the way we want it to, to suit us and our perception of how things should be. “Hope” on the other hand is based on things that are usually out of our control yet based in truth and that more than likely will come to pass.

I wanted to know what the definition of each word is, so I surfed over to Dictionary.com and found the following:

1. to want; desire; long for (usually followed by an infinitive or a clause): I wish to travel. I wish that it were morning.

2. to desire (a person or thing) to be (as specified): to wish the problem settled.

1. to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.

2. the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best

I think the biggest difference I see is that “hope” brings with it a confidence that something will happen and this is usually based on a proven track record or a known truth while “wish” is really based on nothing other than a want or desire or a whimsical notion of  “if only… then”. 

For example I may want a great result in an exam. Hoping for that great result is within reason when its based on the truth that I’ve paid attention in class, studied hard and prepared for the exam. If I haven’t done the above then the best I can do is “wish” for a good result because, lets face it, the odds are against me. I know this is far from definitive and I’m no language expert believe me, but I raise this difference because I believe that it’s affecting our ability to effectively share the Gospel. 

The Gospel is all about “Hope”, Jesus came to give us hope and that hope is based in the truth of who God is and the promises He has given to us. If “hope” is confused with “wish” as I suggest, doesn’t that mean there’s a greater risk of people misunderstanding the Gospel message? Does it also mean that we can be lazy, not prepare (study God’s Word, seek His will, serve Him and others) and just hope (more like wish) that God will work things out in our lives? Could that be why so many “christians” are missing the point of serving God? It’s an interesting idea I think, and something I’d like to throw out there for comment.

What do you think? Do we confuse “hope” with “wish” today and can/does this effect how people relate to the Gospel message and God?



Filed under God Stuff, Life Coaching, Random, Worship

34 responses to “Hope vs Wishing – are we confused?

  1. Esther

    That’s so weird, we were just talking about that at our small group bible study this past weekend.

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

    Our society has certainly misused the word “hope”. True hope is tied in with a certain degree of assurance. Wishes are … well just wishy washy.

    • Eddy

      Hi Esther

      Thank you for your comment and welcome to the blog!

      I totally agree that hope is tied into an assurance, how might we recapture the true meaning of the word hope today?

  2. calledsoldiers

    It is evident in the way people live their lives that they are wishing rather than hoping according to your definition.
    I’ve always thought of wishing as something whimsical and fairytale. Something to do with magic and luck more so than with faith, to which hope is so undeniably linked.
    The Bible says, “… hope maketh not ashamed.” Well if we live a sinful life then we will be much more than just ashamed, we’ll also be very disappointed when we die because Jesus said unto the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall seek me and shall die in your sins and where I am you cannot come.
    I agree therefore that there is a definite difference between hoping and wishing, further I would not want to base my life on the off chance that God might just overlook the life I’ve lived and let me into heaven anyway; especially as the Word of God says, God is no respecter or person.

    • Eddy

      Hi calledsoldiers, thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog!

      You raise some deep stuff in your comment, especially taking hope further and applying it to eternal life in Christ.

      How might we recapture the true meaning of hope in today’s world?

      • calledsoldiers

        Let’s look at what we’ve determined hope to be. Hope is not whimsical, it’s actually based on something.
        Therefore an increase in hope is an increase in that thing that hope is based on.
        Hope is based on two primary things and is also relative to a third thing.
        As you wrote our hope is based on who God is… That is the one primary part of it, but it must then also be based as importantly on our faith in God.
        Hebrews 11:6 says he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.

        So we must have faith in God, but is that faith and not hope?

        Let’s look at Hebrews 1:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…
        So faith we see is inseparably linked to hope…
        And the good thing is faith is subject to increase therefore hope is subject to increase.
        Now faith and subsequently hope is increased by trials.
        We hope and exercise our faith more when we have no human element to lean upon.
        It’s not the way it should be, we are actually made to trust God first and foremost, but for a majority of us we will only look to God when all other help is taken away.
        This is why we go through so many things.
        And why the Word of God says, the trial of your faith being much more precious than gold that perisheth (1 Peter 1:7).

        Now it would be wishful to expect to increase the understanding of the meaning of hope without increasing the practicability of it. There must be practical application to back up what is supposed about it.
        So when we as people learn to look to God for our needs as Jesus said in Matthew the 6th chapter we’ll see an increase both of the understanding and meaning of the word hope.

  3. One of my favorite [encouraging] verses about hope is Romans 8:24-25 hope that is seen is no hope at all. //
    For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
    //I definitely think the true meaning of the word is on a dangerous path of being used interchangeably as if they were synonyms.

    • Eddy

      Hi Lorijo, thanks for all your comments over the last few days, I’ve really appreciated them! 🙂

      How might we help people to understand the difference between ‘hope’ and ‘wish’ today? any suggestions?

      • Pat_Doug

        I “Hoped” and prayed for love and connection in my life – with a (male) partner. All I have seen is rejection for the last two years, primarily because of age (and I am an energetic, vibrant, active, curious 64 now). I thought age was a chronological number, but in our society is has far more assumptions tied to it by men and women. Over time, the rejection is depressing and I decided to not “Hope” anymore because “Hope” has an expectation associated with it – that assurance factor, and the “reasonable confidence”. When statistics, and personal contact tell you the probability is nearly 0, the reasonable confidence goes away.
        I am seeing a therapist and she advises I should “Hope” but without the expectation. How is that different from a wish?

  4. I use the term Hope in the context that you describe. Hope is something which is an essential part of my faith.

    I live in hope of seeing and being with Jesus in the new Kingdom promised and delivered by his death on the Cross, and I strive to fulfill his will for me as part of the Church, his body on earth.

    I might wish that I don’t have to wait to long, but that would be wishing away the gift of life, given to me to fulfill God’s purpose for my life on earth.

    • Eddy

      Hi Ernest

      Thanks again for your insightful comments. I think that hope implies that we be active. We’re hoping to be united with Jesus in His Kingdom and that spurs us on to serve Him here and now… wishing is really passive, we know it’s not likely to come to pass so it doesn’s inspire or drive us to get going and make a difference…

  5. Eddy

    Wow! Thanks every one for the great thoughts in the comments!

    I wonder, if we all seem to agree that ‘hope’ and ‘wish’ are being misused in today’s society, how might we correct that? What could we do to share the real meaning of the word hope and in turn share the Gospel?

    All ideas/thoughts are welcome. Maybe we can look at it on three levels; corporate (on a big scale say teaching in Church), local (among our peer groups) and personal (what can I do to make the distinction and share it)…

    I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas and will do a follow up post including them 🙂

  6. To answer your question, I think it begins with living it out, but also sharing that hope with others who may ‘wish’ they had what we have. I could definitely do a better job than this.

    [side note…and yes this is slightly random…but did you know that you were a part of my favorite new year’s eve? http://bamboosong.wordpress.com/2008/12/31/my-favorite-new-years-eve-ever/ ;]

  7. oops *do a better job of this* not ‘than’.

  8. the more I thought about your post mad eme think of the connection…one of my current directions is writing songs that communicate hope and healing…i’m not there yet, but i’m working on refining the songwriting and hoping to be able to share the songs that I know God whispered into my heart. He said ‘write’ I said why, it doesn’t feed hungry/heal the sick…neither of which i do anyways…so it was a bit of a smart reply on my part I suppose….I don’t know what kind of journey/adventure God is taking me on, don’t even know where my paychecks will be coming after a couple months, as my temporary job comes to a close, but am doing my best at being obedient to the still small voice as He leads me. I so desperately want to serve and do what He wants me to do. My heart is for worship and church ministry…it’s confusing when I don’t have those ‘jobs’. So I count my many blessings and thank him for providing tools to allow me to move forward on this songwriting adventure in hopes that the Truth of God’s heart can be communicated. There’s a bit more on my blog about the story: http://bamboosong.wordpress.com/2009/07/05/getting-started-my-music/ but it’s a crazy place to be. I’ve so much to say, but so few words…and yet too many words at the same time.

    • Eddy

      Hi Lori

      Thanks for the link to your favourite new years expereince… that was a great mission trip for me too, thanks for reminding me of all the things God taught me that trip, I need to put some of that back into practice!

      I too struggle with lyrics for my song writing… I have tons of music I’ve written but find it hard to get the right ‘words’. I find that the more time I spend studying God’s word the easier the lyrics come… funny that 😉

  9. Definitely :] And it makes it easier to hear His voice too!

  10. I have a question for you (well two actually)…do you think that people who are not familiar with church jargon may misunderstand the term “hope” and have their view that Christianity is a “wishy washy crutch for losers who need to believe in something mystical in order to get through life”, reinforced? I know that this conception can be changed once they start interacting with believers…but does this language hurt or help our cause? (I’m playing devil’s advocate incidentally…)

    Another scenario would be this…the word hope is nebulous in its common usage and provides an “out” if you will. Consider the situation where a young christian couple say…”we hope we can make it to our wedding day without sleeping together” …by saying that they have left the door open for the deed to occur..it’s not an absolute when you say you hope to do something…it’s a maybe. How do you think this kind of understanding and usage of the word impacts our message…rightly or wrongly…and probably subconsciously….

    • calledsoldiers

      The confusion in which a person who is unfamiliar with this life in Christ has of this life will be there until they come into the knowledge of truth. Therefore it is impossible to truly explain to those without hope, the concreteness and solidness of it, but the challenge is rather to inspire them to hope. The act of hoping and the grasping of hope will give them the greatest understanding of the word hope.

      Now two people who are burning in their lust one for another have already committed the act in their heart and they in that sense are hopeless.
      Sin comes from within, Jesus said he that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery already with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28). Therefore this proposed “hope” is not hope. A desire to sin works against hope.
      Hope is not a light a fluffy thing, is it both steadfast and sure. It is an anchor to the soul (ref. Hebrews 6:14). It is a goal that we strive for, not a throwing of salt over the shoulder or a carrying of mystical symbols to ward off evil. Hope is what propels us forward on our Christian journey. Hope is a vision of heaven, a desire to be closer to God, a love of Jesus and an looking for of those precious promises God has given us.

      • I agree with you from a believer’s perspective. Everything you say is true. But are we sticking our heads in the sand if we fail to consider how our words and the way we articulate our faith are understood by those around us? I don’t want to be a part of an exclusive club that says…believe what i’m saying even if you haven’t got a clue what it means and it sounds to you like a load of mystical mumbo jumbo. I know and understand the hope because I have Jesus….but what do you think is the best way of conveying that assurance to a world that desperately needs it when they are so skeptical and turned off by what they see as wit-less followers? Hope is only steadfast and sure to you IF you know what it is and what it means. It means nothing to someone on the *outside*. It is just a word that they understand through the lense of their own life/environment/experiences.

        I also agree with your sin comes from within bit…what I was trying to say is that the language we use to talk to ourselves is important. If we use words that provide loopholes for our behaviour we WILL fail. If we use strong, definite language we reinforce our beliefs and are more likely to succeed with what we are trying to accomplish. Our actions are borne out of what we believe. Our beliefs are reinforced by the things we tell ourselves about those beliefs and how they are to be lived out.

  11. Pingback: More on Hope « Called Soldiers's Blog

  12. calledsoldiers

    I hope you don’t mind I have commented on this post on my own site and have linked my post to this one… if you desire I will remove the link…

    feel free to view the post at: http://csog.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/more-on-hope/

    • Eddy

      No worries calledsoldiers about the link, I’m enjoying the discussion and the study. Just make sure you regularly link it all back to my blog so my readers can keep up with the discussion as it develops


  13. In response to calledsoldier’s post…(included there too)
    I am enjoying this too. I think it’s critical for us to understand and discuss these things 🙂

    When you say **By living the life before them.** This is what I was digging for. 🙂 This for me is the clincher. We can talk about hope all we like. We can preach the word all we like….and as you rightly say…it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit that removes the veil from people’s eyes so that they can see, but God has decided to have us be his ambassadors on this earth. We are his representatives. We are the ones that he has tasked with being the embodiment of who he is and how he loves the world. Our lives must be an accurate (as much as we humanly can) and ACTIVE representation of God’s grace and love. Our words are absolutely worthless if they are not matched by the way we live. It’s not enough to simply share our testimony and let them see how God works in us (although that is a big part of it, I’m not dismissing that) we need to demonstrate God’s grace-giving acceptance and love of people too. If our words and our actions don’t match we are, in effect, putting the veil back up.


    With respect to words:: We are sinners at heart, unless we are intentional about filling it with Godly input and about purposefully reinforcing our beliefs about who God is and about who we are as children of God, we will go backwards. There is no standing still in life…you either purposefully move forward or you go back. That’s why I believe it is so important that we pay attention to the way we nurture our inner world.

    • What you said is very accurate, but just a technical note to add to what you said concerning the words: “as much as we humanly can.”

      Our best is imperfect, but Jesus taught, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

      Many people say perfection is impossible, but Jesus taught perfection.

      Jesus disciples asked Him: “Who then can be saved?” Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (ref. Matthew 19:25-26).

      We can do nothing of ourselves, but Paul said, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

      I meant to include this on my own comments page, but I’ll put it here nevertheless…

      This is the only way to achieve the desired results. For as you typed, “Our words are absolutely worthless if they are not matched by the way we live.”
      We can’t be hitting and missing at that we’ve got to be on target. If we mess up one time that might be the time when the world happens to be watching the most intently.

      John wrote, “The word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” When we live this life as it should be lived, people should be able to say the same thing about us as John wrote about Jesus.

      Is this presumptuous? Is this putting ourselves on too high a pedestal? Paul wrote: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

  14. I’m not sure if I am reading your response correctly, perhaps you can clarify for me.

    It looks to me as though you are asserting that when we accept God’s gift we are made perfect in the sense that we will never make a mistake or sin ever again, that in effect we become God (he is the only one who cannot sin). I can’t agree. The perfection that is discussed in the New Testament refers to Christian maturity and completeness in Jesus…when God looks at us, he sees us through the lens of Jesus, and therefore see’s Christ’s perfection, we are made whole/complete through Christ’s sacrifice. However, when we look at ourselves, or when other people look at us…we are still humans, who, whilst we are indeed complete in Christ, are still sinners (albeit redeemed ones) and prone to falling and failing. We, as Christians are *not* perfect in the sense that we have got all of our ducks in a row and we will never ever stuff up again. To say that we are perfect in that sense elevates us to a position that we are in no way shape or form entitled to place ourselves in. To live as though everything must be perfect is setting ourselves up for all manner of psychological pitfalls. Perfectionism is a crippling disease. If we project an image (a false image) that our lives are perfect and wonderful all the time because we are Christians we are projecting an incorrect image of what this life really is, and that sets *other* people up for problems when they try to emulate this picture and fail miserably.

    I must add, however that because we are made perfect/complete in Christ, and we are continually shown grace and mercy and forgiveness after we repeatedly fall, provided we repent, we must not use this as an excuse to live lives that are less than excellent. It is no excuse for habitual sins, and it is no excuse to live a life that is half-baked and not completely devoted to obeying Christ. We have to do our best for God, anything else is unacceptable, but I don’t believe that we can be perfect in the sense of never doing anything wrong ever again.

    Have I misunderstood your position?

  15. Well before we continue… let me ask critically for you to define what you mean by the words, “mistakes” and “sins” because often times we find that definitions of words may cause misunderstandings.

  16. In the context of the Christian life I think of these two things from a relational standpoint….(I am not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination, but this is how I understand these concepts)

    I believe that *sin* is anything that gets between you and God and stops you communing with him in the way that he intended. These can be sins of omission (we don’t do what we know we should..eg helping the poor when we are so well off, speaking an encouraging word), and sins of commission…which can be the objective type (murder, adultery etc) or the subjective type (for me overeating is sin because it stops me from fulfilling my God-given purpose effectively, but it may not be an issue for someone else). Essentially sin is anything that negatively impacts my relationship with God.

    I believe that *mistakes* in this context (and the way I was using it) are related to how we interact with other people as well as with God…eg we might hurt someone with a harsh word, or an action that was not throught through. Mistakes could be sins…but not necessarily. A mistake might be holding onto our own ideas as a leader, when one of our people has a better idea. A mistake might be putting someone into a position where they are unable to grow and thrive and will probbly fail, but you need some one in that role to fill a perceived need. A mistake might be to put your kids in a particular school. A mistake might be to get angry at your kids when they spill a glass of milk. Each of these have the potential to harm a relationship. The cool thing about mistakes and failures is that, if handled appropriately, there is the potential for increadible growth and development.

    • Do we have to live out this commandment: “Hear O’ Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength…” Mark 12:29-30?

  17. Technically, and in a vaccuum…yes you are correct. However “our all” is a subjective measure since we are not infinite beings, and it is dependent on our circumstances etc…what we think is our all, may not truly be so from God’s perspective.

    I think that you have perhaps not taken into account that whilst we are free from the power and rule of sin in our lives through the blood of Christ, we are still subject to the effects of sin, and until we are transformed and get rid of our earthly bodies, we are going to continue to sin and make mistakes and fail. James 3:2 says “We all stumble in many ways…” The entire New Testament is filled with people who, even though they were believers, or even disciples who had had direct contact with Jesus, that failed in one way or another. While we are still in our sinful flesh bodies, we will fail. There are verses through out the New Testament that indicate the need for ongoing and continuous surrender and cleansing, and filling with the Holy Spirit. Why would that be necessary if we were completely free of the effects of sin from the minute we accepted Chirst?

    The brilliant thing is that God uses these failures not only to continually remind us that he is gracious and merciful, but to grow us. We are rough diamonds that need to have the rough edges knocked off time after time. This happens when we fail and humble ourselves to the point where we are in a place to receive God’s transforming teaching in our lives. We will only become beautifully honed diamonds when we are taken up to live at Jesus’ side.

    • If you are free from sin then you are free from the effects and everything… Jesus said whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Therefore either you’re free from sin or bound by it. He said if you sin you are the servant of sin.
      You can’t be bound and be free also.

      James 3:2 says if a man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man and able also to bridle the whole body.
      Now James 3:10 says, out of the same mouth proceedeth blessings and cursing, my brethren, these things ought not so to be.
      Therefore James is not advocating sin or that we offend. Christ says woe unto those by whom offenses come (ref. Luke 17:1).
      Now because someone in the Bible did something that doesn’t mean it was advocated.
      Judas betrayed Jesus in the New Testament, but He didn’t make heaven.
      Peter began cursing when they tried to link him to Jesus and denied even knowing him, but that didn’t make his action acceptable with God.
      Just because people have failed before, does not mean we are bound to failure. Jesus is our example not Peter, or David, or anyone else, who did no sin neither was guile found in his mouth (ref. 1 Peter 2:21-22).
      Sin is not a mistake and a mistake is not sin. Sin is a willful thing. Something you choose to do or choose to not do against the knowledge of the will of God.
      God doesn’t hold you to something you don’t know or can’t perform.
      Jesus didn’t just tell the blind man who was healed to go and sin no more, knowing he was incapable of accomplishing it. How cruel would that make him. “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14). So you’re saying Jesus sent him out to his doom? No, Jesus knew what He’d done for him and he knew he could do right if he choose to.
      Romans 8:9 says if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he’s none of His.
      This is the problem. Not having the Spirit of Christ. The spirit that says, “…the Father hath not left me alone, for I do always those things that please Him.” John 8:29
      Paul charged us saying, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
      We are not our own to do with as we please. 1 Corinthians 6:20 “For ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God, in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
      When we get up from the altar we have power over sin. John 1:12 says, “But, as many as received Him, them gave He power to become the sons of God.” 1 John 3:2 says Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see him as He is.” The next verse is the key, it says, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
      So back to the topic of hope. If you have this hope. The hope of heaven and a life of true freedom and joy, you will do whatever you can to ensure that. You won’t go back into those things you were once bound by. Its not in your nature to want to go back and start crawling on your knees when you’ve learned to walk already. No one truly freed, mind, body, and soul wants to go back into the prison and be locked up again.
      And we were freed from the prison house of sin.
      And we were given the key to let others out (ref. Matthew 16:19). But rather than that we’re going to once again lock ourselves up in it?
      The minute you accept Christ you are made new. Revelation 21:5 says behold I make all things new. The minute the blood is applied you are freed from all bondage of sin. You are loosed. As Jesus said when Lazarus was brought out of the tomb and had the grave clothes still on him. “Loose him and let him go.” So He’ll speak to every spirit that has you bound up in sin. Loose her and let her go. No matter what spirit it is. When Jesus freed the man in the tombs who was bound up by a legion of devils he didn’t leave one devil in there to torment the guy, He freed him completely. As he freed Mary Magdelene from those 7 devils (Mark 16:9), he freed her from all of them and she followed Jesus ever after. She didn’t have to go back to them again. In fact she was chosen to bear the greatest message ever preached, the resurrection of Christ.
      Whom the Son sets free, is free indeed. There is power in the blood of Christ. He doesn’t leave us bound in sin or bound to sin. We are made free to serve and worship and please God. Our entire purpose is to please God and they that are still in the flesh cannot please God (ref. Romans 8:8).

  18. Dear friend,

    I think that we are going to have to agree to disagree in our theological differences. Let’s rejoice in the fact that we serve the same God, but accept that our respective interpretations of the scripture and accepted beliefs are somewhat different. I think that from a kingdom persepective it would be counter-productive to continue to argue these points in a forum where someone who is not a believer could stumble on it and come away with the notion that all Christians do is argue about petty differences.

    I pray God’s blessings on you, your family and your ministry.

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