I like to think that I’m a pretty hopeful guy. Generally, this is a good thing. It makes me more upbeat, and keeps me looking forward and moving in a positive direction.
But sometimes it doesn’t work like that. Sometimes my hope ends up hurting me. Like when I hope that a relationship will work out that ends up not. Or when I’m hoping for the financial resources I need and they don’t come through. In these moments, it certainly feels like it would have been easier to have skipped the hope thing altogether because hope hurts.
The Christian story is a similar one. The hope that the Christian has is more than just optimism. It is rooted in revelation and the promise of Christ’s resurrected body. The Christian looks forward to the day of the universe’s restoration to God’s desire, and our place in it. It’s a grand, dazzling, beautiful hope that we have. And it’s a sure one.
Yet, there are times when we struggle and question God why he doesn’t just restore the world now. When we watch children die from cancer; when we see marriages dissolve and hearts broken; when we see the pain and destruction that suicide brings, we ask “why not now?”
And most of the time, we don’t get a response. We are called to trust God and often these are moments of faith, not understanding. And so hope hurts. Knowing that this reality could and is going to be different leaves us in deep pain. Knowing that sin and its effects, that evil and its works will have no place in the future Kingdom makes the pain of these moments all the deeper. Hope hurts.
In such times, we may feel isolated, alone, even hopeless. But the pain that hope leaves us grappling with, that dull ache in our breast is not just pain, it’s an invitation. It is the voice of the shepherd, saying “yes, I know your pain; and now you know that of others.” It is a moment of realization that not only do I ache, but the whole world aches, leans into, and looks forward to being restored. And in these moments of realization, Jesus invites us to partake in his work – to bring the Kingdom of God into the world. He invites us to help begin to turn tears into laughter, and sorrows into joy. He invites us to heal wounds alongside him, to witness to the least of these of the love of an incredible God.
Hope hurts. I’ve felt it personally. I feel it when I read about sex trafficking and little children being abused. I feel it when I think of those who lose fathers and mothers. I feel it when I see the news report of still more bloodshed and violence around the world. But God doesn’t leave me to sit in that hurt, he invites me into his work – to bring the Kingdom now. The Christian hope, even when painful, is always an active one; through it, Jesus draws us, pushes us and sometimes drags us into a Kingdom reality.
And the best part is, we’re invited to help do some of that dragging and pushing and drawing. How are you dragging this world into the Kingdom?