Holy Hope

When we consecrate ourselves to God, we think we are making a great sacrifice, and doing lots for Him, when really we are only letting go some little, bitsie trinkets we have been grabbing, and when our hands are empty, He fills them full of His treasures. — Betty Stam, missionary martyred in China

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine” (Psalm 33:18–19).

These days I catch myself grieving a lot. Grieving the familiarity of the life I knew before, the life my mother lived before me and the grandmother lived before her. Kids, work, assembly life, outreach. Today, I find the corners of my heart attacked by constant worries about the world outside my door. Will the riots escalate here in Detroit? Will the violence and heartache of Minneapolis reach my door? Will there be a second wave of infection? Should I let the girls have a playdate? The governor opened up the state, but will we ever be able to live normally again? And I start to feel in my soul that what was, was. And what is, well, is changing.

And that is a slow, sad lump to swallow. It’s in these quiet afternoons while my big girls are listening to audiobooks and the dishwasher is humming, Hannah is sucking her soother sprawled out in her crib, and Maddie is (always) fighting sleep with contraband toys in her bed, I lay it all out. All my wrinkled, wrung out worries in a crumpled pile. Lord, tell me what I should feel because right now I feel very small.

“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” ( Isaiah 8:12–13).

I found myself wandering through the old halls of Isaiah’s prophecy, craving the weighty words and stark displays of God’s wrath and love. I love how Scripture is never surprised by the present world I live in. The fearsome curses the prophet pronounced, the shivering hope of a coming Messiah in the face of descending invasion by the Assyrian superpower. Isaiah is burdened. Worried. Looking at the world and feeling oh, so small. But Isaiah tells his readers to not fear. Don’t be drawn into conspiracy that is fanned by our fear, don’t fear the things that the world fears, don’t be enticed by the dread that is preached all around us. Fear Him, let all that He is and the truth of His power be your dread — and your comfort. “The world is falling apart, dear reader,” Isaiah seems to say, “but don’t fear because it needs to.”

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined’ (Isaiah 25:6).

There are promises for the future here that stand in contrast to the terrible prophecies. They shine brighter for the darkness of the surrounding chapters. Sweet pictures of a sumptuous feast that will be laid on the mount of God. Full of “rich food” and “marrow” and “well-aged wine.” Tell me, sister, how do you get well-aged wine in a brand new world? I have no idea. Maybe God is aging it even now, as we speak so Christ can finally drink it again (Matt 26:29). He will wipe away the tears that will trickle down our faces as we remember the pain of yesterday and be filled with wonder at how it all fit into the sweeping loveliness of His work. He will take away the reproach of His people that is as old as Abel’s blood. And like I pull the sheets off the bed on laundry day, He will pull the veil off of the nations that hides the full force of His glory. (Isaiah 25:8) And we, all of us, His people from every race and tongue and people and nation, will glory in Him (Revelation 7:9). All wrongs righted, each person and people group honored and lovely in His Kingdom.

So I start to understand that the things I loved, predictable shopping trips, play dates, two-day shipping and the secure business of my old life, and a host of other little things, must go away. He took them away. “I work, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 43:13). And these things, all of them, that quietly held a place in my heart, will be rolled up like a yoga mat and be done away with. Because we are moving on. The future is full of promise and we do not belong here. How can we fear conspiracy, COVID-19, or rumors of war, when all these things are simply the birth pangs that signal the coming of the new day? (Matt 24:8). When my babies were about to arrive, I didn’t grieve over those feathery Braxton Hicks contractions, I thrilled with excitement because I knew that after the labor, my baby girl would be in my arms. And the labor is worth the reward. And so it is for us too; we can look around and thrill at the beginning of the end because we know where we ultimately will be — forever with Him.

So, daily I am taking the things I grieve and mindfully saying goodbye to them, one by one. Lord, give me a heart for heaven, not for the past I tend to hold onto. Like the one-by-one pulling of weeds, these hard days are showing me the things that I can’t set my heart on. They are passing away. Instead, I can set my heart, my fear, my hope and certainty on the future that we all have. What an incredible blessing this time is, sisters — because it has forced me to long for heaven, long for His return more than ever before! And that holy hope doesn’t disappoint (Romans 5:5). It fills me and gives me energy for the work I have left in this life. It enables me to embrace the uncertainty and yes, even the danger, and trust my God who is the source of my hope and the security of my future.

Then, with God’s minute-by-minute help, I can package up this hope in my words, actions, and attitudes, and hand it out to the hurting and fearing around me. My students, friends, neighbors, kids and you. And you can too. Let us try to live in the light of what is to come, not what is.

For I am sure that neither deadly viruses nor life in isolation, nor angels bent on my destruction or the spirits that rule them, nor things in the strange days that are my present nor the world’s uncertain future, nor Satanic or national powers, nor the dizzying heights of space that we launch men into nor the depths of despair into which many around us are plunged; nor anything else in all the creation that He has made, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is fully and beautifully and intimately acted out in the person of Jesus, my very own Lord. He stands faithful, always advocating for me and ready to return.

Can you hear His footstep at the door? He is coming again. Let us be ready to welcome Him with a smile of certainty because we knew that He was coming all along. Didn’t we?

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (Isaiah 32:17-18).