Seeing my own life through the eyes of my adopted children has made many moments of surprise over the years. Nowhere is this more true than in the area of language. Coming to us at 8 & 10 years old, these last four years have been full of working out the nuances of English in all of its confusing glory.
The random misuse of words, surprising ways sentences are glued together and the occasional accidental cuss word that turned out to be an innocent mispronunciation of a vowel has been a point of fun humor in our home. So much so that I’ve started my own log of their mistakes on Facebook under the hashtag #englishishard. These are the sweet things I don’t want to forget, at times not even correcting them because it’s just so darn cute!
While driving quickly (maybe even speeding) …
“Mom, be careful! You’re zooming!”
While cutting their food …
“Half it, please.”
But there’s one mistake that forced me to go deep to sort out the difference. That’s the confused usage of the words “wish” and “hope”. When I could not figure out a great way to explain the difference between the two words, I took to doing a bit of research.
According to ESL Library, hope and wish are both words used to express our desire for something different from how it is now.
- Hope mainly expresses a desire that is possible or likely to happen.
- Wish usually expresses a desire that is impossible or unlikely to happen.
Wishing is a bit of a floating cloud, a passing desire, a reality disconnected from our world. Wishing is born from a vague desire we have little intention of actually working towards.
But hope, sweet hope, is fully grounded. It’s a solid connection with a distinct future, even yet distant. It’s the substance that our soul consumes like precious nourishment, bringing our dreams to reality.
Consider the wrong usage again from my kiddos:
- I hope I had no school tomorrow.
- I wish Grandpa would like the pudding I made.
No school tomorrow? That’s unlikely to happen (aside from the occasional hurricane). It’s a vague desire from a worn out student’s heart. But there’s not much reality to it. That sentence should have been, “I wish there was no school tomorrow.”
And Grandpa liking your homemade pudding? Yes, that is a very probably outcome. Because it’s pudding and it’s yummy and gosh-darn-it, he’s your Grandpa! He’d like anything you gave him! Correctly expressed, that sentence should have been, “I hope Grandpa likes my pudding.”
See the difference?
The words that bring life call hope an “anchor.” Anchored in some truth or some trustable probability. Consider these ancient words:
Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.Hebrews 6:17-20
But that’s a mouthful. Permit me the liberty to sum it up like this instead:
God (who doesn’t lie and who’s counsel is a very sure thing) promised us life – the fantastic, abundant kind.
That promise is a refuge for us when life is, shall we say… less than. That promise is HOPE for us for greater times.
This hope is so strong, so sure, so binding, it acts like an anchor. We don’t float away in frustration or despair.
This hope is also so holy, so intense, so purifying, it enters the very intimate presence of God to represent us. It burns purification inside of us.
This hope is not mere wishing.
So, how do we think about our future?
Are you wishing for greater times? Perhaps with vague, unattached thoughts, that don’t connect with your day to day direction? Wishing that borders on complaining and excuses and lament?
Or are you hopeful? Hopeful in a way that you attach yourself to and won’t let go? Hopeful in a way that says, my life is before me and there is abundance for me to enter into? Hopeful in a way where day by day, step by step, you move TOWARDS the future instead of running into it accidentally.
Wishing and hoping – they are just not interchangeable words. And as for me, I’m choosing to be hopeful.