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Our Confident Expectation

Finnish people call this perseverance, Sisu, which means hope, that is, to keep going, and before you know it, the “winter” of life will have passed.

Folklore says that if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, then it is a sign of an early spring. Groundhog Day reveals the critical role hope plays in our lives, culture, and my profession, teaching.

Although teaching is a “profession of hope,”— there has been surprisingly little explicit reflection by educators about hope. There is a curious combination of professional optimism with a general sense of educational crisis in the profession, the result being that teachers get a confusing message about hope.

On the one hand, hope is held to be intrinsic to the concept of teaching; on the other hand, hope is often not present in the reality of education. I was recently in conversation with a teacher who ended our discussion with the following sentiments: “If I could leave teaching, I would go tomorrow. . . I’m not sure I have much hope left.” He concludes by saying, “We need a theory of hope.”

When we express hope, we are often expressing uncertainty. But this, I contend, is not the distinctive biblical meaning of hope.

Biblical hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.

Of course, there is no hope without faith in God, and without hope, there is no faith. The Bible is abounding with encouragement to persevere when the circumstances look hopeless. Finnish people call this perseverance, Sisu, which means hope, that is, to keep going, and before you know it, the “winter” of life will have passed.

Let us not put our hope in culture, the news, politics, Twitter, or groundhogs, but instead in God, who gently encourages us to give Him all our fears because “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).

Matthew Etherington is TWU Professor of Education. Born in Sydney, Australia, Dr. Etherington has lived in Australia and Finland. He currently resides in Langley, B.C., Canada.