Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Optimism vs. Hope

     "We are not talking about a sunny disposition that makes us believe things will be better tomorrow.  An optimist says, 'The war will be over; your wounds will be healed; the depression will go away; all will be better soon.'  The optimist may be right, but unfortunately he or she may also be wrong.  For none of us can control our circumstances.
     No, hope does not come from positive predictions about the state of the world, anymore than does faith.  Nor does hope depend on the ups and downs of life's particulars.  Hope rather has to do with God.  We have hope and joy in our faith because we believe that, while the world in which we live is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world.  ' In the world,' said Jesus, ' you face persecution.  But take courage;  I have conquered the world' (John 16:33).  We follow One who is not limited or defeated by the world's sufferings.
     Hope does not mean that we will avoid or be able to ignore suffering, of course.  Indeed, hope born of faith becomes matured and purified through difficulty.  The surprise we experience in hope, then, is not that, unexpectedly, things turn out better than expected.  For even when they do not, we can still have a keen hope.  The basis of our hope has to do with the One who is stronger than life and suffering."

-Henri Nouwen

     I was comforted recently when a friend said to me that God was not just looking down at me and my pain and saying "Oh, this will be good for her."  She said that his heart was breaking, on a cosmic level, for my hurt.  Wow.  

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet is without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." - Hebrews 4:15-16

   Misery loves company.  Part of what makes suffering so hard is that sense that we are going through it alone.  But that's not true.  It's what the Enemy would have me believe (that I am in pain and alone) in order to compound my hurt. 
     But Jesus is not "a high priest" on top of some distant mountain "unable to sympathize" with my weakness.  He hurts too.  A lot.  More than I do even at the things that ache me.
      We had a family friend whose grandchild died at a young age.  Looking back later he said that he would imagine that losing a grandchild is one of the hardest things. You are mourning the loss of your grandchild but you also hurt watching your own son or daughter suffer through losing their child.  
       I imagine that is how Jesus is.  He hurts because He is saddened by our situations, because our losses are His losses, but He is also so hurt watching us suffer.  His child, His creation.  And He aches.  He aches for us.  But the beauty of Jesus, is that because "he is not a high priest" He also aches with us. 

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." - Psalm 3:18

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