What If Hope Stops Working?
Have you ever asked yourself this question? Do you ever wonder when Hope stops being enough? I am naturally pessimistic at heart. But at the same time, I have a tremendous Hope in the story of Jesus. It is both a personal Hope as well as a communal Hope–even (and maybe especially) eschatological Hope. This Hope is what drives me to have such a high opinion and belief in the church. It is why I believe that I have a responsibility as a follower of Jesus to live according to a high standard morally and ethically that mirrors the teachings and life of Jesus as best as I am able. And, of course, I come up short, just like we all do. But my Hope sustains me and drives me.
But, I wonder if there aren’t times when Hope seems to falter. When our circumstances get the better of us. Or we mess up so badly that it seems that there is no way out of our choices.
I’m sure we have all known people and been the person ourselves for whom this is true. And we have guilted ourselves, beat ourselves up, and even been done the same by others. It is exactly at this time when Hope seems to disappear. We forget Hope (or are deliberately deceived that Hope is not enough to sustain us).
And as I reflect on this idea and this somewhat common experience, the story of Job comes to mind. If you are unfamiliar with the story of Job or would like a refresher, I encourage you to pause right now and to read the first two chapters of the book of Job, at a minimum. You can find those passages here.
As Job’s story gets underway, he experiences tragedy after tragedy, and maintains his trust and his Hope in God. We look at his confidence and his statements of faith in God as praiseworthy. And yet, as the book progresses, the situation grows more and more complex. The very next verse in Job 3:1 says, “Afterward, Job spoke up and cursed the day he was born.” And then we read 30+ chapters of Job’s friends, primarily, telling Job to repent for his obvious sin.
And then, God shows up in chapter 38 and reminds Job of just who this God is. And as the book comes to a close, we don’t find the resolution that we might expect or want. Rather than Job’s claims of righteousness being honored or an undoing of his pain and tragedy, Job simply relents of his complaint. He has seen and now knows God in a greater way than he once did, and as a result, Job withdraws his charges against God.
And as I consider the story of Job as a whole, I wonder where Hope fits into all of this? Does Job lose his hope between chapter 2 and 3? Does Job regain Hope when the epilogue to the story declares that Job’s wealth is restored to him and he is able to have additional children and family? Or does his Hope simply change and become something different? A different kind of Hope?
If you are a member of the community of the Skillman Church of Christ, then you may be feeling this week that Hope is far away. As we hear about the ongoing transitions and discussions that are underway, we might wonder where Hope lives right now amongst our community. In the wake of changes to staff and elders, is there a reason to remain or cling to Hope? As discussions that we might agree with or disagree with begin, does this provide us Hope for God’s kingdom being able to work through our community? Are we worried that we won’t be able to continue to be a kingdom outpost if a certain result comes about? Our story is not the same as that of Job’s, but we might wonder if Hope is enough right now.
And to that question, I offer the experience of Job. Specifically, the source of Job’s comfort: God’s presence. Job confesses that while at one time he had heard about God, he now has seen God. In times when Hope seems distant, seek after God. For it is in God’s presence that Hope blossoms and that Hope is given the space it needs to grow afresh.