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Archive for January, 2013

Hope

“”Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops- at all-”

Um, no.  Sorry, Miss Dickinson.  This is not hope.  

Hope is not a candle in the dark.  It is not the light at the end of the tunnel.  It is not the equivalent of wishing on the evening star.  Not optimism, not a belief in the greater good, not even the power of positive thinking.

That feathered thing is something that we imagine is hope; it’s our human understanding of hope, what we’re accustomed to visualizing when we say “We must have hope.”  But real hope, the hope we must have, the hope that never fails, is something entirely different.

No feathers, no singing, no warm, fuzzy feelings.  Those are the optimist’s tricks of (positively speaking) encouragement or (negatively speaking) self-deception.  There’s nothing wrong with them, per say- different people have different needs.  Emily Dickinson’s poem is lovely, and I suspect God allows the human hope she describes to teach us to know His hope, true hope.

But when the Bible says that our hope is in God- that is exactly what it means.  Our hope is in God.  Our hope is God.  Not what God will do, not nice little neat plot endings: introduction of conflict:rising conflict: first crisis: plateau: second crisis: resolution: falling action: conclusion.  We crave this because we are created in the image of God, and therefore we know that there must be resolution, and that there is meaning.  However- it is not yet.  The resolution of the age-old conflict between God and evil is only imminent- not present.  We do not yet have the tools or the ability to see the meaning in all that happens in our lives.

God gave Job new wealth, a new family, health- but He did not give Job an explantion of his trials, as far as we know.  Job’s second family did not erase  the loss of his first family.

Paul was given an explanation for the thorn in his flesh, but he was not given relief.  The Bible does not tell us of any eventual healing.

The Old Testament Lazarus found his recourse only in heaven; he died in misery, poverty and injustice.

History tells us that several years after saving her people, Esther lost her position as first wife, becoming just another member of the harem- she never came out of obscurity again.

There are also biblical characters who had “happy endings”- Jacob’s son was restored to him, and he died in great old age surrounded by his children.  Naomi had her “grandchild” placed in her arms to raise, and a “family” restored to her.  But not every story is the same. 

God knows each one of us as individuals.  I think sometimes that is so difficult for us to grasp that we assume He uses plot formulas and assigns them by type or lot or some other method.  But He truly knows each one of us, and He knows both our needs, and our place in His will-He does not give us someone else’s “fate”.   We each stand before God alone.

“…God’s purpose according to His choice [stands], not because of works but because of Him who calls… ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” Romans 9:11b, 15,16

Hope is that God is. Hope is that God will be.  Hope is that God always was- yes, even then.   Hope is that God has chosen us by His will.  Hope is that God will not let us go when He has written us on His hands.  Hope is that wherever we are He is.  Hope is that God knows the end when we don’t.  Hope is that God never leaves us nor forsakes us- He gives us grace as our day- not as our tomorrows or yesterdays, but today.

This is hope.  No feathers, fluttering, blushing.  Just God.

 

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