Will winter never end? Will spring never come? Some years we hear this lament on every side. Years when storms continue through March and April. Years when May is cold and damp. Years when we wake up to frost in May.
So far, this year is different. The winter has been mild and the signs of spring have been all around from late February. Crocuses peeked up early. Everywhere there are the signs that tulips and daffodils will soon be in glorious bloom. Buds on the soft maples and poplars have swollen and burst into pendants of inconspicuous bloom. Robins have arrived. Geese wing their way north in honking V’s. And I’m itchy to plant seeds and rake the yard.
Instead of having to defer the hope of warmer weather week after week, as we have in other years, an early spring seems inevitable. Of course, when it comes to weather, anything can happen but our expectation of spring seems quite solid. After all, it does come every year.
Sometimes life, like cold, dreary weather seems hopeless. And unlike the spring, the outcome is far from certain. Year after year some pinch pennies without any expectation they will ever have enough extra to spend on a trip or even to pay bills. Others endure an endless bout of illness. Some struggle day after day with depression. Still others head out every day in search of a job with little hope of finding employment. Many suffer injustice or persecution without any hope of relief.
The Psalm writers echo our common human feelings of hopelessness in difficult circumstances. “My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord” (Ps. 6:3)? “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble” (Ps. 10:1). “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning” (Ps. 22:1)? “My soul is downcast within me” (Ps. 42:6).
Despite these deep feelings of anguish, the authors of the various Psalms have hope. Their hope, like that of any genuine God-follower, is rooted in the character and sovereignty of God in whose capable hands, the future rests. In Psalm 13 after his lament, David writes, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5). In Psalms 42 & 43 the sons of Korah repeat one refrain three times as an encouragement to self-talk. “Why are you downcast…put your hope in God” (Ps. 42:5,11; 43:5). You can also check out Psalm 71.
Is biblical hope wishful thinking? One friend has a difficult time with the word hope. In his experience it means uncertainty, an “I-hope-so” kind of attitude. Not so, the biblical writers. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb 11:1). Those with faith in the Christian verities have confidence that: God is, heaven exists, Christ died for our sins, all things work for the good of those who love God, and history is moving toward a climax during which time Christ will return. We are certain of these things. “These three remain: faith, hope and love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
That which astounds me repeatedly is the hopeful and cheerful outlook displayed by Christian believers in the most difficult of situations. Imprisoned and tortured believers in Iran and China, for example, show us the way through a minefield of doubt and discouragement. May Christian hope transform each of our days.