They waited nervously in the waiting room. "He is so young, this cannot be his time yet," the mother said. The father paced, fidgeting with the pen he held in his hand. And I just sat there.” A friend of mine recounted these events to me. “We just sat there, with nothing to do or say in the sterile waiting room waiting for the doctor to come through the double doors. "Should it take this long, is that a good or a bad thing?" the parents said to each other. Tears weren't flowing from their faces, they told each other they had to be strong, but it seemed like the tears were trapped like a lens on their eyes. We waited. Minutes felt like hours, hours, like days. Until finally the doctor came though. We all got up from our chairs in unison. He looked at the parents. And where movies show the doctor showing the test chart and the parents rejoicing that their child was alive, that doesn't always happen. Instead, the doctor shook his head, and we all started crying.”
“What did you say to them?” I asked him.
“Nothing. No words were said. No words could be said. And in that moment I realized that my hope cannot be on anything in this world. Because when it's not okay, nothing in this world can make it right.”
Our only hope for hope is to look past this world and find it somewhere else.
This world is filled with a lot of hurts. A lot of pain and sorrow. And plenty of moments where words can't make it okay. When the child dies, when the cancer returns. When the ________ happens.
We have to find hope somewhere, and it's not on a hallmark card. Not in pithy statements. When CS Lewis’s wife died in 1960, people would respond with pithy statements like “She will live on in your memory." He retorted those in A Grief Observed by saying, “What pitiable can't say, 'She will live forever in my memory.' Live! That is exactly what she won't do. What's left? A corpse, a memory, a ghost. Three more ways of spelling the word 'dead'!”
There is not true comfort in a statement that does not hold the weight of reality. No, hope is found in the truth. In the truth that this world isn't everything!
For the believer, our greatest hope in this world is to look past this world, into the heavenly realms. A gaze at the eternal gives us our greatest defense against the pain and hurt of this world.
What I mean is that Jesus beat our greatest enemy in this world, death. And because Jesus beat death, what can this world throw at us? That is why The bible is so concerned with us not being concerned with this world. "Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but can not kill the soul." (Matthew 10:28) or "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2)
Athanasius saw "victory over death as the center of Christian confidence. Death no longer terrifies those in the church but is put in its place." That is why we sing 1 Corinthians 15:55 “Oh death, where is your victory, oh hell where is your sting.” This is why the first antonym of hope is fear. But the first antonym of fear is courage.
When life gets hard, and when asked how are you, your answer is either to lie and say everything is fine or, to tell the truth, and admit that it's not ok, your hope is in heaven. It gives us the confidence to say in any situation, to say "yes that happened, but my God is still good."
Our hope turns the world upside down. Because in the midst of pain where the world crumbles we can be illuminated by a light from outside of us. The light of Christ. A.J. Conyers writes, “(the) most important proof of the resurrection of Christ from the dead was this: look how these people live in this world.”
CS Lewis knew pain but wrote just after his quote on pithy statements that hold no actually comfort, about hope when it's not ok.
“From the rational point of view what grounds has Helen's death given me for doubting all that I believe? Should it, for a sane man, make quite such a difference as this? No. And it wouldn't for a man whose faith had been real faith. The case is too plain. If my house has collapsed at one blow it is because it was a house of cards. Indeed, it's likely enough that what I shall call, if it happens, a 'restoration of faith', will turn out to be only one more house of cards.
Something quite unexpected has happened, it came this morning early. Suddenly, at the very moment when, so far, I mourned Helen least, I remembered her best. Imagine a man in total darkness. He thinks he is in a cellar or dungeon. Then there comes a sound. He thinks it might be a sound from far off — waves or windblown trees or cattle half a mile away. And if so, it proves he's not in a cellar, but free, in the open air. Lord, are these your real terms? Can I meet Helen again only if I learn to love you so much I don't care whether I meet her or not? When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of "no answer." It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent gaze. As though he shook his head, like, "Peace, child, you don't understand." How wicked it would be, if we could, to call the dead back. She said, not to me, but to the chaplain, "I am at peace with God." She smiled. But not at me.” A Grief Observed, 1961.
A Christian's hope is not found on this Earth, our hope is and has to forever be focused on the eternal. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or cry or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev 21:4) When life is ok, and when it is the farthest from, the eternal God and his eternal Kingdom is our only hope.
*Photo from Colorado 2016