HOPE – Wishes vs. Expectations

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I had many frustrations learning the language when my family and I moved to Nepal to serve as CVM fieldworkers there. But one of the most frustrating for me was the fact that they use the same word for “hope” and “expect.”  These were not interchangeable in my mind.  For instance, “I hope it will be sunny on Saturday but I expect it will rain just like the last three days.”   Or “I can hope to win the grand prize with a raffle ticket, but I don’t really expect to win.”  It made no sense to me that the same word could be used in both ways.

I continued to be frustrated, until an elderly woman finally taught me how to understand this.  Prem, a grandmother, was the only Christian believer in her village. We met at church. She would walk two hours, on a path that would take me three, each way to church, every week, to hear the Word of God. She was illiterate and there was no other believer in her village to read the Bible to her.  She and her family were quite poor, living in a mud house where they survived with a combination of a small subsistence farm and working as day laborers in other fields during the day.

Prem often sat next to me at church, on the hard concrete floor, with women sitting on the right half of the church and men on the left.  A good friend of mine named Sue was a missionary doctor in the same village where I lived.  Often Dr. Sue would have to work all night at the mission hospital and then climb up the hill to church in the morning.  Sometimes she would start to fall asleep during the two-hour service. I would have just let her sleep for a few minutes, but Prem would hit her hard to wake her up because Prem valued the Word of God so much she didn’t want Dr. Sue to miss any of it!

One week Prem came to our home after church to share her exciting news. The women’s group in her village was starting a literacy class. “Finally, at long last, I will be able to read God’s Word!” she said.

Although I did not say it aloud, I was thinking, “How can I help her with her inevitable disappointment? She will not be able to learn to read the Bible in a basic literacy class.”

The Nepalese Bible was similar to a King James Version, filled with unfamiliar terms and very small print. Nepal had no Message or Good News version.  Prem was a grandmother, and probably had cataracts from a lifetime of fieldwork without sunglasses or, at the very least, needed eyeglasses. Prem was in a low caste or “untouchable” ethnic group so would not be allowed in the home of the high caste woman who would teach this class. Since Prem didn’t know the alphabet yet, let alone how to hold a pencil, she would probably spend most of her time learning to make basic letters.

After working in the fields all day, Prem carried her Bible to class six nights a week for several months. She sat in the dark outside the teacher’s home with only candlelight as she tried to make out the letters. At the end of the course, I visited her in her home.

Prem was very excited. After dinner, she pulled out her Bible and began to read, and read, and read. She read more fluently than many educated people I knew.  This was a miracle. There is no way that she could have learned to read like that without divine, supernatural intervention.  God heard her prayer and answered by giving her the desire of her heart, to read the Bible for herself.

Prem both hoped and expected to be able to learn to read the Bible, and she did.  Prem had the kind of hope that truly can be an “anchor for our soul” (Hebrews 6:19 NIV).  Her hope was based on faith, not some kind of a wishful thinking, the way I was using the word.  For her, hope was confidence and expectation that God would answer her prayers. Hope and expectation were exactly the same.

“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts” (Romans 5:5 NKJV). This is the kind of hope we can all have in our Savior. He who has poured His love out for us will not disappoint.

  • Are “hope” and “expectation” the same for you in daily life? In your spiritual life? Do you hope or expect to pass that next exam or get that job you want?
  • Have you known people who have complete confidence that their prayers will be answered? Did you think the answers were miraculous?
  • What does it mean to hope for something? Is it “waiting with expectation” or is it daydreaming? Do you have the kind of hope that can be an anchor for your soul?

Dr. Karen L. Stoufer, DVM

Karen grew up in California, attended veterinary college at Cornell University and practiced in small animal clinics in upstate New York and the California Bay Area, and had a house-call practice until she and her family went to Nepal as CVM fieldworkers in 1990.  In 2003, they returned to the USA and currently works in the CVM Seattle office as Asia Regional Director and Training Director.

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