I’ve been thinking a lot about hope and what it means, especially after sending a text to a friend talking of hope.
She had said that two unexpected things had happened – one that their neighbour had, out of the blue, decided to cut back his trees which would mean they could regain their lovely view, and then that someone had managed, what had seemed the impossible, and had found somewhere to rent. I had responded with Psalm 121 and that the trees being cut back were so that they could see their hope again. She messaged back to say she had shared this with someone else who had responded back to her that they has lost all hope because of not receiving an answer to prayer. I’ve also heard from an older person I know how she has lost hope and wants to die because of all this lockdown stuff. So what is that hope that the Bible talks about?
When my father-in-law died my husband read Habakkuk 3:17-18 at his funeral. His death had come during a long period that my husband and I had endure of unanswered prayer and of searching for God in the midst of it.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
It made me wonder how often we are taught in churches, or take on board ourselves, that belief that God answers prayer the way we want it. And that we hitch our hope to getting what we want. We are taught, and teach ourselves, that God is the truly loving father, full of unconditional love. Does unconditional mean that we always get what we want or even need? Is this why we lose faith when things don’t happen as we would like?
One of the big moans of the older generation towards “children of today” is that they are unruly and rude and have no respect for their elders. Some of that reason is that they get everything they want – the best trainers, phones, trips to exciting places on holidays etc. And because of that many of them come with a sense of entitlement – which I think is a lot of what we are seeing with all generations during this season, with not being able to do as they want when they want. We think we’re entitle to things, but are we?
Can we really be joyful in God if we don’t get what we want; our world is gripped by a pandemic, by weak leadership, by selfish world leaders in many fields, by global warming? Can we really rejoice when those we love don’t get healed, don’t get what they want, aren’t fulfilled? (and by rejoice I don’t mean Pollyanna attitude of pretending nothing is wrong, of smiling in adversity but I mean that deep rejoicing in God) How do we do that?
I think we can and I think we should and I think this is what is being asked of us during this period.
Sometimes we can’t see that hope, like my friend with the trees blocking her view of the hills, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Tom Sine talks in 2020 Foresight about how we need to be praying in Psalm 121 as we look towards the changes we need to make in our churches for the future. So let us lift our eyes and remember where our help and hope and support really does come from. As Oscar Wilde said “We’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars“. So let’s look up, remember, take hold and have hope even if nothing turns out as we would like it.
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.