"... and hope does not disappoint ..." (Romans 5:5)
It was on the news today that there may be some treatments available almost immediately. And then it was on the news that there may need to be more testing and more waiting. Hopes rise and it is exhilarating. And then there is a delay and we are back to waiting. The ups and downs in the time of a crisis can be frustrating. So, whatever did the Apostle Paul mean when he said "hope does not disappoint"? It sure seems like hopes disappoint.
First, there is a difference between "hope" and "hope." The one is a feeling within and it draws its hope from looking around; what is our situation? What are our prospects? How soon is help coming? How much can I rely on the government, the doctors, etc?
The other connects to something more lasting and constant. God is there. He hears our prayers. He give His promises. And I know these things how? Because He has won the victory. Everything lasting and eternal comes together in Jesus.
This means my hopes are not just bouncing around inside my own thoughts and feelings; soon to fade away and almost disappear whenever things change for the worse. Honestly, does that not seem to be the way with a whole lot of people in the world? Paul even tossed a thought in that direction when he was writing to the Church in Corinth. "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile .... If we have hoped in Christ for this life only we are of all men most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19) He said it in order to show the contrast. There is a hope that does not ride the roller coaster of feelings. It is an anchored hope, connected to something solid.
" ... and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Roamns 5:5 - NASB) This hope does not come from within. It comes from God, who makes promises; and keeps them.
We have a hope, deep "within our hearts". It is brought there by the Holy Spirit, whose entire work is to point us to Jesus and to the promises we have in Jesus -- to bring the words of Jesus in the Bible, and the words of the Bible about Jesus, and plant them within the Christian soul, so that we can find our hope the only place we can have that one kind of hope -- in the One who came into this world to share our human flesh with all the weaknesses we share.
The love of God comes to us through Jesus' words joined together with His living, dying, and rising. Paul starts the chapter (Romans 5) telling how we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. He is the anchor for our hope -- no one else than the Son of God. As long as He is the Christ of the Cross and the Christ of the Empty Tomb I have a hope that is different from any other hope.
This is why Christians have held on to the one truth, "He is risen," through every century, every wave of persecution, and every illusion of riches that come along in this life. To simply quote Jesus, " Because I live, you will live also." (John 14:19) Jesus is a living anchor. He is eternal, and constant, and persistent in calling and caring for me. He promised.
We need this anchor, not only in the time of the virus. We need Him through every up and down that comes along. We need Him through the days of hope and the days of disappointment. We need Him when life ahead is bursting with possibilities and we need Him when the road is ending and the days are few. Because what He does is walk with us and bring us along and open up all of eternity in front of us.
Lord Jesus, in these days when everyone is looking for answers, and solutions, and rescue, be with my soul. Help me to know the true hope, finding in You the only things that transcend the ups and downs of life and life's times of crisis. Guide me through the turmoil of these days. Remind me of Your words and promises, because they are eternal; and You are inviting me to share in eternal things. Amen.
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Rev. Mark Willig
Pastor Willig is pastor emeritus of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church.