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The true measure of hope
Emily Krill
by Emily Krill
February 19, 2024

Did you know that psychologists have created a scientific method for measuring hope? It’s called the Adult Hope Scale (AHS). This scale defines hope through C. R. Snyder’s cognitive model of hope, which says hope is “the perceived capability to derive pathways to desired goals, and motivate oneself via agency thinking to use those pathways.”* Or in plain English, hope is a person’s ability to create realistic and exciting plans for the future.

Does that definition of hope match how you would describe it? Picture your emotions as you are leaving home on your way to a bucket list vacation destination. Or imagine your nine-year-old self as you wake up on the day of your tenth birthday. What thoughts are racing through your head? How would you describe the feelings in your chest? What “plans” are these thoughts and feelings tied to?

I recently found another intriguing way to describe and measure hope. And the really cool part is that this idea is rooted in a biblical account in which Luke describes the events following Jesus’ death.

Here’s some context: At this particular moment in time, two of Jesus’ disciples were walking together on their way to a town called Emmaus, discussing everything that had happened over the past few days. As they were traveling and chatting, Jesus—very much alive—came alongside them and joined the conversation. For the time being, Jesus kept the two men from recognizing him. He asked them what they were talking about, and they caught him up to speed on everything, including the mysterious empty tomb where Jesus’ body was supposed to be.

Then Jesus, still unrecognizable to the men, responded to all this. “He said to them,How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

How about that for a mic drop, eh? If your average Joe had said this instead of Jesus, it would’ve sounded like, “Um … yeah. God’s prophets told you a bazillion times that this needed to happen to save all humanity. This is the Savior, the Messiah, that you’ve been waiting for. Hello!” (Jesus said it way better.)

Shortly after this epic conversation, Jesus allowed the two men to recognize him but then immediately disappeared. Check out the first thing they said to each other: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

“Were not our hearts burning within us …” Another translation says this: “Didn’t our hearts feel strangely warm?” (NLT 1998).

An internal reaction to Jesus quoting Scripture?! Well, if that doesn’t describe hope, I don’t know what does. When was the last time you felt hope like that, hope that made your heart feel strangely warm? That is the most legit version of Snyder’s cognitive model definition of hope because it doesn’t rely on MY ability to create realistic and exciting plans for the future. It’s rooted in God’s supernatural power, love, and grace.

I want this for you today. I want you to experience the only source of true hope. As we approach our annual celebration of Easter next month, I challenge you to read through Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Experience his incredible, strangely heartwarming hope.

I promise you, getting to know Jesus will blow the top off of any Adult Hope Scale.

* C. R. Snyder, “Hope Theory: Rainbows in the Mind,” Psychological Inquiry 13, no. 4 (2002): 249–275, https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327965PLI1304_01.