Liturgical Year · Living Faith

The Hurt of Hope

11 Yes, I have spoken, I will accomplish it;
    I have planned it, and I will do it.
12 Listen to me, you fainthearted,
    far from the victory of justice:
13 I am bringing on that victory, it is not far off,
    my salvation shall not tarry.

Isaiah 46:11-13

Listen to me, you fainthearted.
I have spoken, I will accomplish it.
I have planned it, and I will do it.
My salvation shall not tarry.

God’s time. God’s promises. God’s faithfulness. God’s ability.

My doubt.

Fainthearted is just the right word for me. My heart is without the needed strength, my love is without the needed courage. My heart faints, it flounders, it surrenders to my worries and anxieties instead of to the surpassing strength of God.

“You who seem far off” but are not. “It is not far off, my salvation shall not tarry.” So often I have experienced this: my lack of hope, lack of faith that God will ever come through or that whatever seemingly unbearable situation I’m facing will ever come to an end; then, suddenly, I’m met with restoration. Only in retrospect do I recognize that it was just around the corner, salvation was almost there.

In the midst of struggle, I have sometimes been shored up with the grace of hope: This will not last forever. The Lord has an end to this suffering in store. His salvation is near. God is able. He keeps his promises. 

Those days are gifts, and they keep me moving forward, but many days I have listened instead to the nagging voice of the Deceiver: God has abandoned you to this fate. There is no end. God might be able, but he’s not willing to save you. You’re never going to feel whole.

Those thoughts, instead of strengthening my heart, give me the false strength of callouses. The callouses ready me for more days of disappointment, more seemingly fruitless novenas, more deep-down aching. But they also close me off  and construct walls between me and God.

Hope is so, so hard. It requires us to be so vulnerable. It doesn’t allow for protective callouses to form, but instead believes the better way is to feel. And to feel means to feel the pain, to feel the disappointment, to feel the longing. But to feel also means to keep my heart open to God. How long, oh Lord! I make the ancient cry. My heart aches instead of hardening.

Hope allows the pain, hope accepts the suffering. Hope cries out, it submits itself to scourges, it undergoes beatings, it bears the shame of mockery. It keeps walking, keeps stumbling forward toward the promise of redemption.

You who seem far from the victory of justice…it is not far off, my salvation shall not tarry.

Hope is the virtue of the Cross. It is the grace of Calvary. Mary and John look at the Cross, Jesus suffers the Cross — You who seem far from the victory of justice — but they hope the truth: God is able. God is faithful. God’s salvation shall not tarry.

Hope waits through the night of Good Friday into the dawn of Easter. It persists through Holy Saturday, looking at death, at a tomb closed tight, still expecting the God of the impossible to bring forth life.

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