If you are familiar with the typical Bible study or Sunday School format, you are likely very familiar with what many of us refer to as “Sunday School Answers”. You know, the Christian lingo that will correctly answer 99.9% of questions asked in church. Jesus, God, Holy Spirit, faith, Bible, pray, Chris Tomlin. (That last one may have been too far. Nothing but respect, Chris.)
Another popular one that I want to unpack with you today is “hope”.
My fear with hope, along with Bible, Jesus, Father, Son, Spirit and Pray, is that we get a little too comfortable with these words. Certainly, these are powerful ideas and do in fact answer so many of the questions our wandering human minds come up with, but I don’t want us to forget the sheer power embedded within these words and what they mean for us, in the here and now. And if I’m being completely honest with you, while “hope” is a facet of the Christian walk that I know I’m called to embrace, I rarely do. In order to really understand this idea, let’s turn to God’s word. I believe that hope can best be summed up by the following passage from Revelation.
Revelation 21:3-5 says, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'” (New International Version).
Man. Sign me UP for some of that. No more tears, pain, death, or mourning. This is the hope that we can cling to, right now, in this very moment. As Christians, we can find rest in the hope of the above words because they were written, delivered, and sealed as God’s very own word. I could talk for hours on the importance of regular Scripture studying, but friends, one of the most powerful aspects of the Bible is that it indeed is God’s story. From the beginning, to where we stand now, to the end. It is God’s plan, but more importantly, it is God’s finished plan. That’s not to say God is finished working, but instead, the outcome of the work He is continuing within His creation is already determined, and it’s right there in our passage from Revelation. And that’s hope. Hope is knowing that He knows.
As glorious and crucial as hope is in our faith journey, it is also brutally difficult to cling to. In "It Isn’t Supposed to be this Way", popular Christian author/teacher Lysa Terkerust touches on this. Lysa beautifully sums up why this is so hard, why even though we know the outcome is good, the here and now doesn’t always seem so good. Lysa paints this metaphor of us being “between the gardens”. In Genesis, we read that God created a perfect world, a garden filled with unity, harmony, peace, and completely oblivious to any pain. 66 books later, in Revelation, we read that God is going to restore that garden and we will get to taste that complete perfection, for the first time in our lives. But we aren’t there yet. We are here. We are here where there certainly is pain. We have a hard time identifying with that first garden experience, and we have a hard time holding to the hope of the forthcoming garden restoration.
Friends, I get it. I see cancer, abuse, trafficking, death, divorce, addiction, depression, and violence. I understand that even imagining a place absent of these things is difficult, much less clinging to the fact that we will experience that perfect place.
The thing about hope though… future hope does not promise the absence of current pain. But current pain does not equal the absence of God.
Do you get that? When God asks us to look towards things unseen, the hope awaiting us, He isn’t being naive to the pain we are experiencing here in the middle. He sees it too. But unlike us, burdened and buried underneath miles of heartache, God can see that day to come. God can see the very last tear you will cry, the last death of a loved one you will have to mourn, the last time your earthly body fails you. And He sees the moment that you will stand before Him. Whole. Perfect. Flawless.
The middle is worth the fight. Hope is worth the fight. Because hope is God’s promise. And if I’ve learned anything about God… it’s that He is the best promise keeper. Revelation will come to be. You will be restored. You’ll be with Him.
I pray this encourages you. Through whatever the trial is right now. I know you have one, we all have one. But we all have a future, and a promise, and if we are willing, a God who loves us. -Taylor