By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, When we remembered
Zion.  Upon the willows in the midst of it We hung our harps.  For
there our captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying,
"Sing us one of the songs of Zion."  How can we sing the Lord's song
In a foreign land?
A recent study indicates that those who are not "hopeful about the future" are more likely to die than those who have hope for the future. Over a four-year span, from 1992 to 1996, researches asked 795 people aged 64 to 79 whether they were ``hopeful about the future.''
Around 9% responded, "no." Five years after the survey, the researches found that 11% of the hopeful died, contrasted with 29% of those who were not "hopeful about the future."
Why does the presence of "hope" make such a statistical difference in death rates? Heb. 6:19 describes hope as "an anchor for the soul," and says that it is both "firm" and "secure." I like that picture for hope. As an anchor digs into the sea bottom to keep the tides, winds and waves from moving a ship, so hope anchors our souls and keeps problems, pressures and despair from controlling us.
Are you "hopeful about the future?" Now I didn't ask you if you were optimistic. I asked you are you hopeful-there's a difference.
According to Dennis McGowan, a pastor who has served on 5 mission trips to Haiti. "The Believers in Haiti are not optimistic about their future at all. They were not optimistic, but neither are they pessimistic. Strangely, they were some of the most hopeful happy people I have ever met."
These are people who make under $1.00 per day-- just enough money for that day's living expenses and sometimes not even enough for that. The money is meager, but they simply do not have the opportunity to make more. And yet, they are generous.
They give their time and their labor and their food and their appreciation and their love. About forty of the locals helped McGowan's mission team finish building their church building. When they were helping, they were not earning any money working at their jobs. And yet, they worked side-by-side with the mission team for ten days. Why would they volunteer their time instead of working for money that they so desperately needed? Why would they have such hope?
Wouldn't their suffering lead them to despair instead of hope? Not exactly. In Romans 5:3-5, Paul teaches that sufferings produce hope, not despair. "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (NIV)
Suffering produces perseverance.