This week of Advent is Hope week.
There are two kinds of hope.
First, there is the hope that comes when promises are fulfilled.
Before that, however, there is the hope that endures while waiting for promises to be fulfilled.
We spend our lives hoping for the first kind of hope. It is the hope of deliverance delivered, freedom bestowed, forgiveness granted and joy claimed. We have all experienced slices of this kind of hope. That is what emboldens us to carry on hoping for greater things. No one lives without the experience of being graced.
This side of eternity, however, we must grapple with the fact that fulfilled hope is only part of the story. Longing still breathes in the midst of redemption. We are not home yet. So, we need the second hope—which is really a hope of the first order. It is what I call “capital H Hope”.
The ancient question “How long, O Lord, how long?” forms the core of this second type of hope.
Our lifespan stretches and hope grows in proportion. It is a strange truth that we expect life to get easier but reality is stubborn. The longer we live the more we come to expect that our waiting should be over. So, hoping gets harder. We have to fight for it inside. It is likely I will die “groaning, as in the pains of childbirth, as I wait eagerly for my adoption as His child...” (Romans 8:22-23, adapted).
The mystery of hope is that it resides in the middle of groaning.
My grandmother died before her prayers were answered. She prayed for about half a century, almost every day. She prayed for healed lives, new births. She saw some answered prayers and some she did not see. Yet, she still believed and she still praised her Father. She still hoped against hope, like the prophets of old.
May we follow her example. May we follow their example.Let us hope in the middle of groaning.