Sunday, December 18, 2011

What is Hope?

It is in this winter season that it seems so many of the older people in my life have passed on. I also know the disease statistics for our country and indeed, see them lived out around me as loved ones have heart attacks and cancer and other mysterious ailments. We pray, and we hope.

We hope for a favorable outcome, generally. But Christ is our hope. Today, Sunday, I rest my hopes firmly on Him. I think about Christmas, one week away, and am filled with awe at the child in whom we put our confidence and his miraculous birth.

Elisabeth Elliot puts it this way:

"Did I not tell you," Jesus asked, "that if you believed, you would see the wonder of what God can do?" Here is the clue to the lesson: It is faith he is looking for, a quiet confidence that whatever it is he is up to, it will be a wonderful thing, never mind whether it is what we have been asking for.

The usual notion of hope is a particular outcome: physical healing, for example. The Christian notion, on the other hand, is a manner of life. I rest the full weight of my hopes on Christ himself, who not only raised the dead but was himself raised, and says to me in the face of all deaths, "I myself am the resurrection." The duration of my suffering may be longer than that of Lazarus's sisters, but if I believe, trust, flee to God for refuge, I am safe even in my sorrow, I am held by the confidence of God's utter trustworthiness. He is at work, producing miracles I haven't imagined. I must wait for them. The Book of the Revelation describes some of them. The intricacies of his sovereign will and the pace at which he effects it ("deliberate speed, majestic instancy") are beyond me now, but I am sure his plan is in operation.

I don't know, when I'm asking for something here on earth, what is going on in the innermost shrine of Heaven (I like to think about it, though). I am sure of one thing: it is good. Because Jesus is there. Jesus loves me. Jesus has gone into that shrine on my behalf. The hope we have is a living hope, an unassailable one. We wait for it, in faith and patience. Christ is the resurrection and the life. No wonder Easter is the greatest of Christian feast days! No wonder Christians sing!"

No comments: