I was raised in the church throughout my childhood. As a family who helped plant churches, we were there every time the doors were open. I’m thankful for the solid spiritual foundation my upbringing provided. But not everyone is so fortunate. On a recent episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective podcast, I spoke with French-born Stephanie Rousselle, who grew up an atheist before coming to know Christ in her young adult years when she came to the United States. If you have been praying for someone to come to know Jesus as their personal savior, I’d encourage you to listen to that episode (When an Atheist Finds Jesus – Episode 72). But I’ve asked Stephanie to share more of her wisdom and insights here.
Hope: Wishful Thinking or Rock-Solid Certainty?
By Stephanie Rousselle
Hope. Why do we humans desperately crave it? Why do few things affect us as much as a “hopeless” situation? A medical diagnosis. A relationship failure. A suicide attempt. The loss of vital perspective. Dire financial prospects. Crippling pain—physical, psychological or emotional.
What King Solomon says about hope
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12a, ESV). Solomon clearly establishes the influence of hope on our heart. There are two ways to understand the relation Solomon seems to describe. First, he could mean that the heart is the source of hope. In that sense, when hope does not become fact, the source of our hope, our heart, is made unwell. We become bitter and disappointed. We grow a heart of stone and become more reluctant to hope again. We harden.
Or, the wise king could mean that hope is the caretaker of the heart; in that sense, when hope does not turn into fact, we become anxious and stressed. When we go through seasons of uncertainty, with more fog than sunlight, it is easy to feel that what we had been hoping for, and is not coming forth, is out of our grip. We feel the grief of losing control. We fall into despair, despondency, depression.
Delay of hope causes sickness of heart. It’s a fact. No one enjoys a sick heart, so how can we prevent it? Should we train our hearts to never hope, so that we can never be disappointed? This might be the path of some man-made religions, but it is not what Solomon prescribes; and that’s where French comes to the rescue.
Yes, French. I am French, and therefore French is my native language. I can draw on the unique nuances of meaning it brings, to add depth to your experience of hope today. In French there are two distinct words that are both translated “hope” in English. And one of them will take you straight to the Throne Room in awe and wonder.
The first word is Espoir. It is by far the more commonly used of the two words. Espoir is the “potential to be.” Espoir longs for something: you “hope” for good weather, or for a good day at work; you “hope” dinner will be yummy; you “hope” your favorite sports team will win the trophy; you “hope” to heal from the flu; you can “hope” for a cure against cancer, or the end of world hunger. These are all good longings; they are wishes of what we hope to see happen. But there is no guarantee. This is how the world defines hope.
Contrast with glorious word Esperance. Esperance is the guarantee of the fulfillment of a promise. There is no room for ethereal wishful thinking. This majestic word carries the weight of certainty. Esperance is guaranteed future sight. Esperance and faith go hand in hand in Hebrews 11:1 (NIV): “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” That word hope, there? Esperance, of course.
Scripture makes ample use of this precious word, “hope.” I find tremendous significance in this simple statistic: 80% of the usage of Espoir takes place in the Old Testament, while 75% of Esperance is found in the New Testament. This sums up the message of Scripture for me, in the words of Augustine: Jesus is in the Old concealed, and in the New revealed.
It takes having lived under the fleeting protection of Espoir to embrace the freedom of Esperance in full surrender. And so, not surprisingly, Paul is the New Testament champion of Esperance. Of all his English-translated “hope,” 90% are Esperance. Confident expectation of eternal salvation. That’s true Esperance.
Make no mistake: despite what the world will tell you of the only hope it knows, Esperance is alive and well. It grows in our heart when we root ourselves in our glorious Lord and Savior.
Is your faith based on fleeting Espoir, or on glorious, Rock-solid Esperance?
About Stephanie Rousselle:
Stephanie Rousselle has lived the last two decades on three continents, four countries and five cities. This former atheist, now on fire for Christ, is a wife, mom, podcaster, public speaker, writer, and women’s ministry director. And completely, 100% French. She thrives on Bible-centered inspirational writing and speaking, and dark chocolate. She loves few things more than a good laugh, especially at herself, because she understands that grace is real, and life is short. She wants to inspire others to see that God is beautiful. “God’s glory. Our delight” is her motto!
Connect with Stephanie Rousselle: Website / Podcast / Facebook / Instagram
Recommended Resources: (If there are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you)).
- The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
- More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
- Prodigal God by Tim Keller
- Knowing God by JI Packer
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
- Free Download: How To Fight Fearful/Anxious Thoughts and Win
- Award-Winning Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises by Dr. Michelle Bengtson
- Breaking Anxiety’s Grip Free Study Guide
- Free 7-Day YouVersion Bible Reading Plan for Breaking Anxiety’s Grip
- Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award
- Hope Prevails Bible Study by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award
I heard Stephanie speak of these two words in the podcast. I am so glad she went into more detail here. Of course I love Esperance and totally am excited for this blessed HOPE and assurance of my eternal home. So enjoyed the podcast and all you both shared. I learned so much about how to share with someone like Stephanie who was an atheist and her insights were so helpful. Your interaction with her was so special and precious. You both shared insights from different perspectives and I enjoyed all of it. Thank you for always being sensitive, through the Holy Spirit,, for what we need to hear and apply to our lives.
It’s a daily challenge to stay anchored in a true hope that does not disappoint, so thank you for fuel for the fight!