The first time I came across this word was during my undergrad studies when I minored in Biblical languages. I took 4 semesters of New Testament (koine) Greek and elpida, the word for hope, certainly pops up.
Romans 12:12 is one of those places. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, devote yourself to prayer.”
And often this “hope” is a reference to the hope we have in the resurrection. Our hope is in Christ because Christ has conquered death…removing the stinger from the wasp of death so that it is not to be feared.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 encourages, “Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep (in death), so that you will not grieve as others do who have no hope.”
Long after my Greek classes in undergrad and seminary, I encountered this word again…inked onto my older brother’s arm.
I was vaguely aware of a spiritual community Bill was a part of which had suffered the loss of an amazing human being named Mark Palmer. Although I did not know Mark personally, I knew of him through Bill and some others in the “Elpida Community.” (Which is how I referred to it). Over a short span of time, this community had suffered the loss of 4 friends/family members (that I’m aware of). Over the past several years, I’ve gotten to know some in this community a little better, especially Chris Marshall, who has been a great friend to my big brother for well over 15 years now.
When my older brother died a little over 4 weeks ago (after a brief battle with a pulmonary carcinomicsarcoma in his chest from July-December), I drew even closer to this “Elpida Community.” And my “little” brother and I (Jason Bean) got inked in our brother’s memory just a few hours before the funeral.
So, this notion of hope…elpida…continues to be magnified by present-day mourning while longing for the truth of the resurrection.
One of the younger members of this elpida community has the full version of the tattoo on his shoulder and encountered someone not too long ago (who may have been slightly intoxicated) but recognized the Greek word. He asked my friend about the tattoo and Izaac said, “Yeah, it’s a word that means hope.” The older inebriated gentleman with slurred words corrected him. “Oh no man…not just hope…it’s the HOPIEST of hopes.” When Izaac told me that story, I laughed externally but teared up internally. The truth came out of a random dude in a bar who has some history with Greek words in the New Testament. He was obviously guided by the Spirit in that moment to drop some Truth which has now stuck with me. Elpida is not just hope, it’s the HOPIEST of hopes. It’s the hope that we cling to…the hope that we steady ourselves on as death and grief come against us like strong waves pounding against the rocks of this truth.
And just a few hours ago, we got the news that my mother-in-law died after less than a week in hospice. In less than 6 months, bladder cancer spread to her lungs and then her brain and just now took its final toll on her physical body. But she was a Godly woman who was such a beautiful example of kindness, compassion, spunk, and so many other good qualities. Having known her for more than 25 years now, I am so grateful for her life, her love for my family, and her strong faith. I ache for my kids and my wife as we continue through this shadow-of-death-valley season.
We all need elpida…the hopiest of hopes to help us through!