Barbara's Random Thoughts

Saturday, November 11, 2006

You would think now hope would be tired

I started this post last week, in the midst of a lot of struggling with the idea of hope. I'm still not sure it's exactly what I want to say. I wrote part of it early in the week, as I reflected on Sunday’s sermon. Then later in the week, my thoughts got turned upside down and I felt like hope had the rug pulled out from under it. Yet again.

My mind isn't settled on this yet. I'm still wondering how I can hang on to the idea of hope and at the same time be contented as I am. At least inside my head, hope seems to breed discontent. Hope, in a sense, is the desire for something more. Is that discontentment? Can a longing for something better co-exist with contentment?

Faith comes into this somewhere, too. Perhaps I'll write more on this later, because I'm still thinking and processing a lot of these things. But I'm going to post now before my inner perfectionist wins out and tells me not to.


I am tired. But hope is not. And that frustrates me, because right now, I just want hope to shut up. I’m tired of hope itself.

Running through my head is an Emily Dickinson poem that has always annoyed me (mainly because of its sing-song nature; to fully experience my mockery, sing this to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas"):

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all...

Sometimes I want to smack that singing-thing and make it stop. Ok, maybe most of the time.

Hope is something that's difficult for me. I'm essentially a pessimist, usually out of self-protection; the underlying thought being: if I don't hope for something, then I won't be disappointed when it doesn't materialize.

On Sunday morning, Steve's sermon discussed the stories of two women in 2 Kings chapter 4. The story of the second of these two women is what stuck in my head. It's the story of a woman who's well-off and seems to have everything she needs. She decides she wants to honor God's prophet, Elisha, so she has a guest room made ready for him to use whenever he needs it. Elisha asks his servant if there is anything they can do for the woman, and the response is "she has no son and her husband is old." So Elisha prophesies that in a year's time, the woman will have a son. Her response is not enthusiastic:

"No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" (v. 16)

But she does indeed have a son, just as was promised to her. Time goes by. Her son dies from a sudden illness. The woman goes straight to Elisha:

"Did I ask you for a son, my lord?" she said. "Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?" (v. 28)

It's like she's saying "I knew this would happen." There's pessimism and bitterness there, a sense of "I told you so," and at the root of it all, a lack of trust. She doesn't believe that God will accomplish good in her life, or at least, a specific good: that of giving her a child.

And I know it seems useless,
I know how it always turns out
(Innocence Mission)

And you know what? That's me, right there in that story: “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes?’” Don't make me believe in something, don’t let me hope. Because I know that I’ll be let down, just like I have so many times before. Deep down, I'd rather close myself off and be safe from hurt. Because ultimately? I don't trust God to be careful with my heart. I saw myself in that woman.

Even though God had given her a child, this woman still didn’t trust. Not completely. Her first response upon her child’s death was to go to the prophet and tell him “I told you so.” It hadn’t really been enough that God gave her a son. She still hadn’t accepted the sovereignty of God or let herself believe in His promises.

The chorus to the following song sticks in my head, from a time when Heather and her sisters sang it at GHBC:

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
When you don’t understand
When you can’t see his plan
When you can’t trace his hand; trust his heart

Those words come across to me as a little too cliché, a little too much of a pat answer. “If things don’t make sense, just trust God!” Life is never that simple. But those words stay with me—because I do believe that God is good. I struggle with trusting that goodness for my own life. That’s what faith and hope are all about, though. Jesus encourages us to have simple faith, faith like a child. My mind rebels against that notion. Because I know how much life doesn’t make sense—my own life and that of others. How do we trust when things don’t make sense; when things turn out like they always do? I don’t know.

The simple fact that we know that things should be different implies that there is something better, or that there will be someday. And that’s all I really have to hang on to. That and the knowledge that I’ve seen God working in my life, in so many ways that I easily forget when I get bitter and pessimistic.

You would think now hope would be tired, but it’s all right…
| posted by Barbara | 9:51 PM