It’s been a very rainy week. The grad party squeaked by with just a bit of drizzle, but not enough to keep the kids inside. Thank-you, Lord!
But Monday, it rained. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. Thursday afternoon we jumped on the tandem when the road had dried between showers and got a hundred yards up the street before it started spitting again… Today I picked strawberries and weeded, in the rain.
This has been not only anti-climactic but a tad bit depressing. You see, I feel I deserve sunshine once ‘summer’ has officially come. Fall and Winter and Spring are opportunity enough for rain. We put up with the wet chill and overcast skies then. But when summer comes it ought to be sunny, right? And warm. Not still hovering under 70 degrees, forcing me to dig out an old turtleneck not yet stowed away with the other ‘winter’ things…
Earlier this week I was quite an unhappy camper. My dismay began with a misunderstanding. You see, we are planning a bike trip. Hotels are booked. Rides planned. Then Jim pulled out the week’s weather forecast Monday morning at breakfast—rain, rain, rain, clearing at week’s end. This was too much for me. I thought he was reading next week’s forecast—and I could only imagine pedaling long hours in rain with no option to go home and get warm and dry… If there’s one thing worse than rain, it’s not being able to get out of it when you’ve had enough!
So I spent the next day (or was it two?) under the mistaken notion (and its attendant gloom) that we were doomed to ride in the rain. Silly, I know. Since when are weather forecasts reliable anyway? But then something happened that changed my perspective. It was something Jim said when I was bemoaning things as I saw them. He said, what if you knew it was going to clear up and be sunny after three days of rain? Would it be easier to bear it? (Those weren’t his exact words, but that was the gist of it).
Of course, that’s when the truth came out about the actual weather forecast and the very real potential that our trip would take place under sunny skies and warm temperatures! And of course, just having that hope completely changed my disposition! And it set me thinking about the power of hope-- this thing that can make misery bearable, that can prompt a smile when there’s no visible reason to be smiling, that can infuse joy into bleak surroundings.
My illustration is rather pathetic, I know. For one thing, I’m far too easily discouraged by weather. And for another, there is no guarantee that we won’t indeed ride in the rain. Mine is a flimsy hope, based on nothing but hope itself, and a projected weather forecast! Who dares put hope in those? Nevertheless it got me thinking about the nature of hope and the sure hope that we as believers have.
We use this word ‘hope’ so loosely. It can refer to short-term wishes (‘I hope there’s a cookie left in the tin’) and life-long desires ( ‘I hope I will grow old gracefully’). Ironically, its use often implies a degree of doubt that a thing will really happen. (“I hope so. We can only hope.”)
There is even such a thing as a false hope—a confidence built on a faulty premise. It energizes like the real thing at first. It holds out promise of good things to come but they never do. Though it take a lifetime to reveal its true nature, eventually it will be seen to be a lie. It will fall with crushing disappointment.
Often such false hopes are based on what we want to be true more than on what God has said to be true. Words are twisted. Promises claimed. Hard and fast conclusions reached. Meanwhile life (and death) happen. God overrides our best judgments. He is not bound by our false hopes. Things don’t go just as we predicted. Disappointments come. We are clearly not in control. Our hopes are fallible.
But there is a hope that is sure. And believers, of all people, should be people marked with an indelible optimism because of the hope of the Gospel. We have reason to wear joy on our sleeve no matter what the weather. We have no need to cling to idle hopes that may or may not deliver, hopes based in this lifetime, in these bodies, in short-term comforts and pleasures. These are the world’s domain. They will prove to be false hopes, all destined to end with life itself. The hope of the Gospel is not bound by the limitations of these bodies and their short lifespans. True hope reaches beyond these to an assurance that the best is yet to come. Bucket lists, and even hopes for healing and happiness, fade in relevance in the face of eternity. The hope of eternal life spent in the presence of our heart’s greatest Desire is the hope that’s meant to buoy up our hearts in the time-being, when it does ‘rain’ on our parade, when we do face endless troubles here, when life isn’t a bed of roses and things don’t turn out all ‘peachy keen’.
We were never intended to compete with the world for all its comforts. We don’t have to. We have an internal Comfort not dependent on health or money or toys. The Spirit of the living God resides in us strengthening, equipping and directing us, God’s treasured possessions, in ways that will proclaim His excellence to a world in dire need of true hope.
I can’t forecast what the weather will be next week. It may rain. I can’t count on sunshine but I can count on grace that will see me through come rain or shine. I can count on God with us, in us, for us, and working through us as we go…
And I can count on God’s goodness and mercy following me all the days of my life till I get to go dwell in His house forever. This is a hope that changes the way things look! And it’s one we can count on, always.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
—Lam.3:21-26 [Have a look at the context of Jeremiah’s words for a full appreciation of this hope he professes. Incredible!]
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
–I Peter 1:3-7
And the LORD said to Aaron, "You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance… “ Numbers 18:20
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. I Pet.2:9
Oh. Almost forgot…this tune I met this week, to share with you…