That phrase has been in my mind and heart all week, since reading a book review with a similar title. I don’t even remember the name of the book being reviewed, but that picture–of a hope dressed in mourning–has given expression to the tension I find myself living in.
A hope that does not leave space for the reality of sorrow and grief is not a hope I can handle right now. That kind of hope would be a pasted on drug, an escape like alcohol, but a whole lot less honest.
No, if I’m to have hope, it is going to have to be a hope that can handle the realities of desperate, inexplicable and crushing pain in a fallen and broken world. That can handle my own suffering and exhaustion. That doesn’t crumble or stand at a distance, afraid to get its hand’s sullied or its nature lessened by the dirty and very real realities of my sorrow and anguish.
I will not drink myself into oblivion, because it feels like that would be compounding my brokenness. But neither will I hope my way into a fantasy–a fantastic delusion–that things are better than they are.
I need a hope–the God of all Hope, really–that can exist right here in my own misery and pain and questions. And not just my own suffering. Suffering beyond description at every level of humanity. Hope that doesn’t flinch or isn’t afraid that this suffering, this one thing, might be the thing that undoes hope. That unmasks it. Hope that isn’t proven false by any tragedy.
I need a hope that can cry out from the pit like Jeremiah, not at all confident I’m going to make it out, alive.
A hope that can weep, “I’m undone” with Isaiah.
A hope that can tremble and challenge like Habakkuk and still say, with knees knocking in fear at what the hoped for deliverance from God is really going to mean, “Yet will I trust Him.”
I need a hope like David, shining through every angry cry, every brokenhearted sob–not sitting off to the side, waiting for me to “stop being depressed” and “get right thinking” before it will deign to step foot into my heart. But a hope that sits right there in the muck and mire.
I need the hope of Job that can cry out in mixed expressions of trust and accusation. That doesn’t mince words or feelings. But that lets me desperately trust (and entrust myself to) the God I’m crying out against.
I need Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. If He is really God with us, then I say, “Welcome to My World, Jesus.”
I can’t change my world. I can’t pretend it’s any better than it is. I can’t pretend I feel any better than I do. Welcome to my world, bringer of life, light and hope. It’s a mess. I’m a mess. Come in. Not a smiling joyful “come in,” but an answering-the-door-with-a-sob-escaping, “Come in”. Come in. Come in. Be here with me. Sit here with me in my pain and confusion and questions.
If God’s promises are true, the burden of proof is going to have to lie with Him. My life is too excruciatingly and honestly hard to paste on a hope that has to try to prove that God is faithful. To prove that God makes all the difference (“Can’t you tell? Look, I’m rejoicing in everything. See my smile?)
If God is really who He says, if He is Immanuel God With Us, then the “with us” has to happen here in the realities of our “with”.
I am too exhausted and worn to paste on hope. Life (mine, individually, but also big picture, the context of this world where I’m living my life) is too hard and too very, very real for me to conjure up a hope that can’t thrive, let alone exist, in the undeniable context of what is.
Hope says that what is, is not all there is. But for hope to be real hope, I think it has to start with how very desperately hard what is, is.
On my last post, I asked for people to share verses they’ve heard taken out of context. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe to be able to laugh at the absurdity of it all. I certainly didn’t expect to be gripped with a great sorrow and grief. With real mourning.
Each comment, each example left my heart hurting in deep ways. I felt stories behind those verses–real people, really hurting, from the cruelty of having Scripture launched at them in so many awful ways. And it left me feeling a bit crushed inside. I felt the pain of having the real hope in Scripture stripped of its mourning and left with empty promises and heavy burdens (because empty promises are, by nature, sure to fail, so we need formulas to make sure we’re doing everything right to get those promises. We distort the promises and then take on the burden of proof, desperate to figure out a way to prove that God’s Word is true and His faithfulness to our distorted expectations is real.)
I read the verses Phil, Enola and Codepoke shared, and my heart wept. Hope stripped of its mourning strips us as well, makes light of the injustice we suffer and makes a mockery not only of our pain, but also of God and His promises. I read those verses and cried two things (Cried as in cried out. Cried as in weeping):
(1) I’m so sorry (Phil), I’m so sorry (Enola), I’m so sorry (Codepoke)… I’m so sorry… As I’ve followed each of your blogs, I have caught glimpses of your stories and the things you have suffered. And, having heard those things before, my heart cries out with you now at the thought of your having to hear those verses used as weapons against you and tests of faith or obedience held over you. I’m so sorry.
(2) God, I don’t want any hope except one which can bear the sorrows that were there before these verses were flippantly (and incessantly, I would guess) quoted. A hope which can stand in the context of sorrows compounded by having your words twisted and yanked around and then thrown like mud in the faces of these friends.
For all of my sorrow and weeping this week, I do have hope. Not fantasy hope, which fills my eyes with such glorious raptures that I no longer see my misery, no longer weep in pain or uncertainty about tomorrow. No. I have a hope that wears mourning. A hope that can handle the mourning. A hope that can handle sickness and abuse and loss without needing to cover it up with ridiculous platitudes or twisting of God’s words. A hope that proves itself both more rugged and more desperate than I could have imagined, because it doesn’t flinch in the face of my doubts and questions. A hope that shines brightly in that odd mixture of courageous obedience in the context of the cry, “My God, My God! Why have You forsaken Me?”
A hope that wears mourning. And so today, I sit crumpled in mourning, but radiant in hope, because Emmanuel, God with us, has brought that hope to me, a hope that can handle where I’m at. That can handle my mourning. And that kind of hope–which is neither overcome by the realities of suffering, nor runs away and waits till I have a handle on my pain–that is the kind of hope I’m overwhelmingly grateful for today.
Weeping. Mourning. Hoping.