On Monday at Over Comers we were talking about hope. We looked at Romans 5:5 “and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…” The conversation began with hope in verse 2 “we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” We decided that the one of the greatest enemies of overcoming is hopelessness. In the inner-city we see hopelessness everywhere and the consequences which flow from this lack of hope are varied and catastrophic. We realised as we looked at the passage that in the world’s economy hopelessness is a product of suffering. I meet people every day who have endured almost unimaginable sufferings. People begin to accept that suffering is their perpetual lot in life and so resign to lives of hopelessness. Too often hopelessness leads to people not taking power over the few areas in which they might exert this kind of control and so folks become re-active rather than self-controlled.
Romans 5 illustrates that in God’s economy suffering can produce something entirely different. Paul writes that suffering produces endurance. Jesus says something similar when He says “Blessed are the poor in Spirit…” The seemingly insurmountable difficulties this life offers are surmountable! We look not at the size of our sufferings but instead our eyes are drawn to the God who puts them in perspective.
Before lunch this week we looked at the verse, which is on a plaque in our chapel, “God is our refuge and our strength a very present help in times of trouble.” I noted the word present. God helps me now. If I am looking at my past as if it were prescriptive (hopelessness) I am already set up for failure. If I look ahead to all the daunting tomorrows (hopelessness) I am again setting myself up. It is when I look to God for help in this moment (hopefulness) that I am charting a positive course for my life. In 12 Steps we often hear “One day at a time.” We have another sign in the chapel that says “Mile by mile life’s a trial. Yard by yard life is hard. Inch by inch life’s a cinch!”
Concentrating predominantly on our past will leave us hopeless. Staring into an unchanging future will do the same. But here and now God can produce in us endurance which begins to form us in the character of Christ and that will bring us to a new and hopeful place even if our outward circumstances do not change.
Wednesday we had a great time in our Bible study which is led by my friend Vicars Hodge. In it we talked about the hope that is our because of the resurrection. The sharing was profound. The suffering was evident and the hope was palpable.
I have several friends at Threshold Ministries who serve with “Street Hope” in various communities across Canada. While the ministries I serve with are called Saint John Community Chaplaincy and up Town Church, I see myself very much in the Street Hope tradition. Without this hope we are to be most pitied.
I am committed to shrinking hopelessness in my community this Lent and I think I hear Buzz Lightyear’s voice “To infinity and beyond!”