Begin to Hope Again
“I’ve come to see that part of my calling here is simply to be a
person of hope.”
Our car bounced down a dirt road in a small Middle Eastern town,
seven of us packed into a five-seat sedan. A dim moonlight lit the
blues and oranges of ramshackle gates guarding small properties.
The town sits on the northern edge of a “developing” country. But
intermittent terrorist attacks and a limping economy make
“disintegrating” seem like a more apt word at times. When locals
meet a Western expat like the one driving our car, their surprise
often breaks into a question.
“Why are you here?” they ask. “This country will never be
This country will never be fixed. You don’t need to live in a
broken country to know something of the same hopelessness — the
desolating sense that some aspect of your life can never be fixed.
For many of us, pervasive, day in and day out brokenness has turned
our youthful boast that “nothing is impossible with God” into a
weary “nothing is ever going to change.” You might not voice it out
loud, but you’ve come to expect that God will not answer prayer,
much less “rend the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1), and that
brokenness will dominate your life’s headlines until your obituary
takes its place.
It might be a broken country, where terrorists’ bombs explode every
attempt at systemic development. Or a broken marriage, where
mistrust has evicted tenderness from the home. Or a broken
ministry, where the word seems to land only on the path with the
birds. Or perhaps just a broken soul, where darkness has
extinguished the last shreds of light.
In the wreckage of that kind of brokenness, we feel entirely
justified as we adopt a hopeless view of our life. We might even
call our hopelessness realism.
Scripture has its share of such “realists” — cynical characters who
run life through the grid of despair. The Bible has its Sarahs who
laugh at God’s promise (Genesis 18:12), its Elijahs who have eyes
to see only God’s enemies (1 Kings 19:14), and its Thomases who
resign themselves to death (John 11:16).
But more properly, the people of God are a people of hope. They’re
the sort who lock eyes with our world’s fundamental brokenness,
size it up from head to toe, and still step into the ring.
Abraham looks at his barren wife and “in hope he believed against
hope, that he should become the father of many nations” (Romans
Ruth turns her eyes from a dead husband to a new country, and tells
Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge”
Habakkuk sees the Babylonian hordes coming to destroy his people,
and still he sings, “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in
the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18).
Micah collapses under the weight of his own sin, and yet he boasts,
“When I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will
be a light to me” (Micah 7:8).
Each one of these saints knew what it was to stand neck-deep in
brokenness. They felt the tension between God’s promises and their
seemingly hopeless circumstances. And yet they still chose to hope
that God could give “life to the dead and [call] into existence the
things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17). By faith, they banished
despair as they grasped onto “the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
In other words, they were people who saw reality as it really is.
Heart of Reality
Each of the stories shows us that, when we welcome hopelessness and
cynicism in the name of “reality,” we are not being realistic
If you peel back the layers to get at the heart of reality, you
won’t find a black hole of brokenness; you’ll find “the God of
hope” (Romans 15:13). You’ll find the God who gives children to
barren women (Genesis 21:1–2), the God who welcomes young widows
(Ruth 2:20), the God who fills disillusioned prophets with joy
(Habakkuk 3:18), the God who pleads the cause of his sinful people
(Micah 7:9). And if you keep on looking, you’ll find the God who
entered the very dungeon of hopelessness in Jesus Christ, and three
days later shattered the door.
This world is not a Shakespearean tragedy, where fate wields his
merciless scythe and leaves the stage full of dead bodies at the
curtain’s close. No, this world is more like a comedy — not because
it’s so full of laughs, but because it’s headed for a happy ending:
a marriage and enough food to go around for eternity.
Christian hope, then, is not the kind that blindfolds itself to
reality. It’s the kind that looks at a newly sealed tomb and says,
“This story’s not over.”
People of Hope
Of course, the hope that sits at the heart of reality does not
guarantee that all of the brokenness we feel will heal quickly — or
even at all in this life. Your country might take decades to
develop, or it might disintegrate further. Your marriage might take
years to thaw, or the cold might settle in deeper. Your ministry
might grow incrementally, or it might wither and die. Your soul
might brighten by imperceptible degrees, or the darkness might
linger until the end.
But the hope at the heart of reality does guarantee something:
change is not only possible, but surely coming. Jesus’s empty tomb
stands as a solid, immovable witness that brokenness is beaten.
With the God of hope running the world, the risen Christ at his
right hand, and their mighty Spirit living inside you, no
brokenness can stand forever. One day, our hope will reach its
fulfillment in the coming of the Son and the dawning of eternity,
and he will speak the final word that exiles brokenness from the
earth. No more splintered countries, no more icy marriages, no more
floundering ministries, no more depressed saints.
And when we reach for that hope with the fingers of faith, we will
live in today’s brokenness differently. We will straighten our
backs, lift our chins, square our shoulders, and remain “steadfast,
immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians
15:58) — even in this world’s most hopeless circumstances. Our
default response to brokenness will not be “nothing is ever going
to change,” but instead “nothing is impossible with God.”
We may still be a sorrowful people — burdened, broken, and beaten
up — but we will not be a cynical people. We are a people of hope.