Of faith, hope and charity, hope is the quieter sister. She is shy but stubborn. I have seen hope for the recovery of a sick child, even after hospital rooms and the threat of death are familiar. Hope to finally meet Mr. Wonderful after years of donning the best clothes and makeup for every first-time date conversation. Hope for a loved one’s return to happiness after knees have worn rough in prayer. From the mundane to the desperate, hope abides in and anchors our hearts.
Hope seems to come naturally to all of us, even those of us who are not religious. Somehow, perhaps because our spirits remember things long forgotten, we have an instinct for how things are supposed to be. We fundamentally know that things should be better than they are in this fallen world. I believe the light of Christ, flowing in and through each of us, plants within our breasts a bright hope for a better world.
Like the early blossom pushing up through frozen ground, hope is tender and yet tenacious. It is sometimes painful and can feel easier on our tired hearts to close the windows to hope forever. But when we give up on it, hope is often like water, seeking the next available wellspring from which to gush forth. It can endure even when it is attenuated, stretched out and thin, a hope against hope.
When Mary Magdalene went to the Garden Tomb after the burial of her Lord and Friend, I imagine her grief. She must have felt a sense of consuming loss. Surely she was familiar with the finality of death, but it must have felt so wrong to her. This was Jesus, the One who worked miracles and raised the dead to life. She had not been wrong to believe in Him. She knew Him. Even if others doubted His power now. Even if His body lay lifeless and still.
I imagine her during those two days following His death, weeping and sad. She had seen Him die on the cross, but somehow hope did not die there. I imagine a spark of stubborn hope inside her as she walked to the tomb that early morning “when it was yet dark” (John 20:1). I imagine her with a resistance to despair, a refusal to give up on Him and all that He had shown her, a desire to witness in what small way she could, that she had not forgotten or given up too quickly. Perhaps she felt, as I have, that despair is a second kind of death.
I see in my mind all the women through the ages who, despite the cold, glaring reality of intervening days, hold onto hope. I feel that they have all rallied to the same banner. Some would call it foolish, and chide and mock. But “hope maketh not ashamed.” Hope is not a weakness or a failure to accept things for what they are. Rather, it makes us strong. In hope, we are capable of facing the darkest corners in our lives, looking ever for the light.
I believe that all hope for good things is really a hearkening to our Savior. Hope for a better world is born of a belief that things can be made right. That separation will end in reunion. That things lost will be found. And hearts broken can be made whole. Christ alone has “overcome the world” and offers to be with us “alway, even until the end of the world.” He alone has prepared a path from the fearful bleakness of our mortal existence to a glorious reunion with our loved ones and our Father in Heaven (see John 20:17).
We look to the promises in the word of God to inspire our hope, but sometimes we lose sight of the fact that the scripture stories are real. We can even convince ourselves there’s no significant difference if they’re real or not. Religion makes us better people, so what does it matter if Moses actually parted the Red Sea or Daniel survived the lion’s den? The reality is irrelevant, or at least not present enough to be functional.
Or so the argument goes.
But I would like to make my case for a living, breath-in-His-nostrils, love-in-His-beating-heart, tokens-in-His-hands-and-feet Lord and Savior. It makes every difference in the world that He lives and that someday we will see His face. I feel a constraint to confront my blind spots, to fortify my hope, and to ponder the flesh of my faith.
What will it be like when something promised becomes present? Like Elizabeth, who not only received the promise of a child, but literally experienced the swelling of her womb (and ankles!), the pains of labor, the late nights, and the worry and wonder of a first-time mother, we too will marvel as promises become a new reality. Heavenly rest, tears that are wiped away by the hand of God, and the joy that “cometh in the morning” may be metaphorical, but I believe with all my heart that they represent physical certainties in times to come. Do we not rightly ache for hugs with arms and cheeks and necks that we breathe into because they are real?
This, then, is hope. She is a tough sister because she needs to be, bridging the sweat of our faith to the realm of pure love that we long for. This better world we hope for is our Father’s. It is as real and vital as springtime, even if we cannot now smell the blossoms that grow in its gardens. Our Savior has prepared a place for us there. He can and will fulfill all His promises, especially the ones that seem impossible or too late or forgotten. I am grateful that, even now, I can feel His familiar presence, like a Friend standing close as I keep my own vigil. I know He is not far, but is near. May we know Him and seek His face, that the God of hope fill us with “all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). Happy Easter, dear friends!