"But hope that is seen is not hope at all." (Romans 8:24)
From our "nest" the sky seems swollen, grey and without cheer. Dawn without the sun slips in quietly, unassuming, like a stage-hand behind the heavy curtains. No bright robin's song or glowing rays to touch the treetops. I rise reluctantly, starting the day cold and sluggish until the fire glows in the hearth, giving some compensation for the sunless skies. To most, indoor days hold images of slow indulgence, but when you share your "indoors" with two lively boys, it takes on a different hue. The floor creaks under their buoyant bodies, the elderly cat flattens her ears and finds safety behind the wood-stove. My own challenges often seem so real. And at times rather overwhelming, if not put into perspective, and weighed against the blessings. On a scale which has eternity as the balance.
I have thought much on "hope" lately - this being the topic of our current bible study. At first I thought; this could be a worthwhile journey, learning about how "Wisdom is sweet to your soul - If you find it, there is future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off" (Prov 24:14). Confirming that faith and hope is not about what you will receive, it is about what you believe. Making it a way of thinking, a way of living.
Up to this point, my perception of this "future hope" was very limited to surrendering my tomorrows and those of my family, to the hope I have in a sovereign God. But when that shaky selfish hope comes tumbling down in a crisis, we again turn to God, clinging to Him with a desperate need for Him to fix and restore. And often He will and He does - but what if our hope is not His will, and in a time of tragedy it all lies in a tangled mess at your feet? I can transfer the mess to the foot of the cross, but "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Cor 15:19). We can and should build our hope on God's sovereignty rather on what he can do for us.
The words of this verse is what really stopped me short: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you". (1 Pet 1:3-4).
Why are we to be pitied if we have hope in this life only? It can be compared to when someone gives you a gift, and you hold onto the parcel, thrilled by the magic of receiving it, but just wanting to keep it wrapped up, feeling loved and cared for in the moment of being remembered. But the content is uncertain, and in not opening it and accepting it, the "value" of the gift cannot be appreciated. In God's mercy he gave us the gift of a new birth into a living hope. In this life we can never fully comprehend the full extent of this gift. But if we limit our hope to this existence, only a fraction of His glory is revealed.
We cling to the cross and the knowledge that we have been saved, but it is through His resurrection that we received the inheritance into an eternal life with our Saviour. Without that, Christ would have been just another martyr, a great prophet who died for a people with their eyes locked on the gift rather than the great reality at the heart of it.
I felt a despair growing in my belly - there is so much I hold incredibly dear in this life - do I really value this gift - look forward with an "inexpressible" joy to the day that I will leave this broken world behind to go to my real home? My hope is an apprehensive, tentative looking forward, rather than a sweet longing. "In this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not have, we wait for it patiently."(Romans 8:24-25)
I realised that I do not have a problem with placing my hope in God through trials. I wouldn't know what else to place it in, that has not disappointed me already. But the living hope that goes beyond trusting that God will bring me through trials and tests is vague. The kind of hope that will give you the desire to praise Him through the hard times. I have a "cognitive" realisation that my home is in heaven, but my heart keeps on digging its roots in the infertile soil at my feet. In this all, the enemy questioned my dedication to God, but: God never questioned it.
In His wonderful omnipotence He knows the struggle in my heart. He also knows that I can have victory over it. I learned that "although I may lay victim to my circumstances, God never looses hope in me". As long as I long for the things that will bring Him glory, I know that He will be faithful in growing the hope in my heart.
Until then I just keep on unwrapping this gift. At each layer my desire grows, and a small quickening stirs in my heart. Right now I place my hope in the knowledge that through God's mercy it will expand until it bursts the banks and overflows with a joy that will not only be inexpressible, but will join the stream of living water from the throne. Pray with me that your hope will join this joyous stream, bringing life to parched souls and thirsty hearts. And glory to God the Father and Christ his living Son.