Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2:12-13)
Without God means to be without the knowledge of God, without revelation of His truth. For the main part the Nations had to live in the world, their lives limited by the things of the world, and had to face the trials and sorrows and perplexities of the world without the knowledge of God to interpret the whole.
They had no prospect for the future, no assurance of life beyond this. The Greeks, for example, looked back on a golden age in the past, rather than to a future glory. They took a cyclic view of history like a New Age approach. There was therefore no concept of a goal to which all things were moving, and this lack of hope was seen most notably in their dismal view of death.
Paul made it very clear that hope which is limited to the secular is a very weak and ineffective experience of hope, in fact is pitiful. If Christ has not been raised … then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:18-19)
So we can and should look ahead to the reward which is ours for living day by day in obedience to our Lord and the laws He has written on our hearts. Perhaps like a long motor drive and the windscreen dirties with mud and insects but you keep your eyes, not on the dirt spots, though they are an annoyance, but on the road ahead.
Rev. Ian Clarkson