Hope – such a lovely word. Pregnant with promise and potential. Hope is the favourable and confident expectation; it’s an expectant attitude that something good is going to happen and things will work out, no matter what situation we’re facing.
But I think hope also has a flip side. Hope is hard sometimes. And sometimes hope hurts. Charles Spurgeon said “Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened.” Sometimes opening that window and keeping it open hurts!
Hope hurts as it identifies what is missing or lacking. It hurts the longer it lingers without fulfilment. It requires a response. It demands a response. We can either respond to it with our hearts or we push it down. Responding to it brings a deepened sense of thirst, a deep ended ache. Often events in life reveal hidden secrets of our hearts. The announcement of a colleague’s promotion, a friend’s news of a wedding or a baby, or simply someone’s good fortune. Suddenly you find yourself smiling in happiness at their news while at the same time being excruciatingly aware that the news has left your heart exposed and vulnerable. Is this what Hannah felt while she longed for a baby, Jacob as he yearned and toiled for Rachel or Ruth as she faced an uncertain future? What do we do with our unfulfilled hopes and dreams?
Our natural self preservation instinct is to shut down the pain and numb its existence in our lives. To avoid facing the pain we seek to disguise or destroy the hope in our hearts. We do this in so many ways – through denial, through finding comfort in food, consumerism, day dreams or cynicism and even in seeking empathy from friends. But these are only temporal solutions that serve merely as pain killers rather than providing healing. Giving God access into this extremely fragile part of our lives is the one option available that will provide sustainable relief and allow our hope to live.
Letting our hearts be exposed to God does intensify the pain, no anaesthetic is offered. It makes us acknowledge the existence of unfulfilled hopes and dreams and shows them in all their rawness and vulnerability. BUT in the exposure and reality of this pain a miracle happens – God comes in. He strengthens, encourages and comforts us. We learn to place our longings and dreams in His hands. God promises that “those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 47:23).