Life can leave us feeling that there is no hope, that nothing can change. The Bible never does.
Yes, Scripture is brutally honest about evil. But then, always, it lifts our eyes. It calls us to ascent. Like the ancient Hebrews on their yearly pilgrimage, we are invited time and again to a Godward journey. Like them, we set the direction of our feet and our songs toward hope.
Scripture is brutally honest about evil. But then, always, it lifts our eyes.
In ascent, we choose — often with great effort — to lift our eyes. We raise them from the raging tumult that surrounds us to the skyline of eternity. We feel, blessedly, our own smallness. We notice again the vast expanse of the universe and of time. And we remember that the Creator of all this is also our loving Father. He has both our times and all time in His hands. So our anxious thoughts can calm like a fading storm, knowing that He is God.
The Jewish pilgrims’ path rose from the lowland of Baca, the Valley of Tears, to the heights of Jerusalem. Perhaps the entire journey – theirs and ours – can be recounted in three simple pairs of words from Scripture.
Creation groans. (Rom 8:32). Jesus wept. (Jn 11:35). But God… (Eph 2:4)
Creation groans … under the crushing weight of the sin, from arrogance and greed to injustice and oppression.
Jesus wept … at the tomb of Lazarus, and he mourns with us even now in the hurt and sorrow of this moment.
But God … is at work, always, to rescue and restore, and in the end, He will make all things new.
And so we hope. We do not hope in hope itself, but in the One on Whose strength and goodness hope stands.
We do not hope in hope itself, but in the One on Whose strength and goodness hope stands.
Without this hope, the brutality of evil – of racism and child abuse and human trafficking and one thousand other things – has the final word. Without hope, we have no reason to try. Our sole relief is simply this: to stop caring.
Without hope, our sole relief is simply this: to stop caring.
But if the Creator of the universe cares deeply about these things, we have reason to care, too. If, as Martin Luther King famously quoted, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” then we indeed have reason to seek hard after that justice. If a loving God has promised to set all that is wrong to right in the end, then we have every reason to join Him in that work today.
Bryan Stevenson expressed poignantly in an interview last week with the BBC, “I’m always hopeful, because the only way we make change in the world is when we believe in things we have not seen…I am hopeful, because hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Once you become hopeless, you become a prisoner of the conditions that have created so much conflict.”
In naming and turning toward the Source of all hope, we prepare ourselves for the work we have ahead.
In ascent, we choose to remember these things again. We name and turn toward the Source of all hope: the strength and goodness of God. In doing so, we prepare our hearts for the work we have ahead. We’ll explore that work in the next post, ADVENT.
To read: Psalm 130, A Psalm of Ascent
To explain: Share how, although the Bible shows us the evil in the world and in us, it never leaves us there. Explain how the Bible calls us to hope, eve in situations that appear very dark — and how that hope is rooted in the strength and goodness of God.
To discuss: What situations in your own life and in our society have felt hopeless to you? What might it look like to choose ascent in these things, naming and turning towards God’s goodness and promises?
To do: Join in a prayer of ascent – rising from honest description of things that seem hopeless to expression of confidence in God’s character and His good intent for you and all His children.
For further exploration: CAFO Board Vice-Chair Tony Mitchell & Bill Ibsen discuss the hope of racial reconciliation through their own story, and how to begin.