Last fall, while attending pre-field training that took us deep into the wilderness, one of my teammates reached a place where she was certain she could not go on. No amount of “you can do it” encouragement from us nor self-determination from herself could force the next step. It was all but over.
That’s when our leader stepped in, saying that our ability to keep going in the face of adversity has nothing to do with gritting teeth and mustering up strength, but it has everything to do with hope. Since hope is a gift from the God who gives liberally, my teammate found that hope that morning in the Missouri wilderness, and we moved on together.
I wrote those words “it has everything to do with hope” in the back of my Bible because I thought they sounded significant. The experience of watching someone who was completely done find strength to go on again left a profound impression on me. But it’s funny how time wears the edges and sometimes it’s not until looking in the rearview mirror that you see the true reality of something in your life.
As I look back over my first year on the field, I see how profoundly true those words scrawled in the back of my Bible have proven to be. It really does have everything to do with hope. Living in a land of such profound darkness can feel anything but hopeful. Idols on every turn, mosques and temples dotting the landscape like churches line main street in a southern town. The concept of a God who loves so distinctly foreign. A rising generation defined by the pursuit of pleasure. Stories of suicide far too frequent. Moral confusion commonplace.
I know the gospel is powerful enough to penetrate this land, but how is that really going to happen? Beyond that, what on earth can one small, floundering American who sticks out like a sore thumb, a very tall, white sore thumb at that, do towards pointing this dark land to the light?
It has everything to do with hope.
It’s hard to be in the seed-planting business. I’ve heard it said that typically a person needs to have about seven genuine encounters with a believer before he/she accepts Christ. I think I’m often number one, or two, maybe three. It takes hope to keep planting that seed. It can feel overwhelming to be, to my knowledge, the only believer in my workplace. It’s not simple to slog through mountains of red tape for what it means to operate legally in a foreign land. It hurts to look into the hallow eyes of drunkenness of a friend you’ve been investing into. It cuts to look around at people I’m beginning to love dearly and be reminded of how lost their souls really are.
Everything around often makes me want to give up.
But hope makes me want to go on.
Hope reminds me of what is true – that every square inch of this world belongs to the God I love. That every single soul in this city is made by him and for him. That one day, blind eyes will see and deaf ears will hear. That no matter what messages the enemy cleverly sketches and screams through all of his crafty measures, his ways are false and God’s are true. That no matter the deep pit, God’s love is deeper still (thank you Corrie Ten Boom). That no matter the problem, the solution lies in the Person of Jesus Christ.
One night I was out on my semi-regular evening walk/jog around campus. I like being out in the evening; it cools down fairly pleasantly in my city at night, and it gives me a sweet opportunity to be on campus when life is in the quiet hours. But sometimes, the quiet makes the voices of doom seem louder. I notice things more, good things, and hard things. About the world around me, and about the filth of the flesh within me.
This particular night I was listening to music as I walked, and a favorite song of mine came on
“Sing hallelujah, the sun’s breaking through, to take back the dark sky and make everything new.” (Steven Curtis Chapman)
I felt this deep prompting inside of me to worship, to claim that promise that this very campus was going to be made new. The skeptic inside of me pushed back at this tide of emotion, reminding myself of the depth of lostness that is etched in every corner of this place. I shouldn’t be proclaiming what God is going to do, I should be begging him to do something!
But I couldn’t shake the feeling. I was being pulled towards claiming Christ as victorious in a land of deep darkness, in a land where so many have not yet seen.
And I can. Because it has everything to do with hope.
And hope does not disappoint.
So, wherever you are on life’s spectrum, let me remind you this morning of the words of truth that have carried me.
Your ability to move forward has nothing to do with bolstering your own strength; it has everything to do with hope.
Hold on, my friend. It’s worth it.
How has hope been a beacon in your time of integration?