We are in the middle of Southern Oregon’s fire season, and with too many hot days and far too little rain it has been a stressful season. With the irrigation waters closed off to our farmers and domestic wells drying up and wildfires raging, we struggle to maintain hope. And beyond the dry and the heat, we struggle with other things. Worries about the Delta variant of the Corona virus (will we see another outbreak? Will it propel us back into lockdown?), and our own personal struggles (finances, health, housing) have us feeling anxious.
Hope is a tricky thing to hold onto. We see all of kinds of reasons not to hope. Maybe some of the things I mentioned above, but maybe something else. Maybe you had hoped for something (e.g., a job, healing, transformation) and as time has worn on you find yourself butting against the same issues, without much change. Maybe we’ve grown cynical, or worse yet, realistic, about our expectations. We grow careful, never daring to hope too much.
The thing about hope is that if everything was the way it should be, we wouldn’t need to hope. We hope because there is enough wrong with the world, that we long for something better, more secure, surer. God’s people have always had a hard time holding on to hope.
The book of Habakkuk describes the suffering of God’s people, and their longing for God’s deliverance. There was a lot wrong in Habakkuk’s day (circa 612 BCE) The Babylonians were becoming a dominant force in the Ancient Near East, visiting Judea with war and hardship. Habakkuk writes:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
Everything in Habakkuk’s world mitigated against him holding out hope. The Babylonians were a militant force threatening Judea, the crops failed, and the livestock ran away or were killed. It would have been easy for Habakkuk to give up, grow cynical and resign himself to the destruction of his people, but he chose instead to trust in the LORD.
[Spoiler Alert]: Habakkuk didn’t get everything he hoped for. The Babylonian Empire would grow into a larger threat, destroy the Temple and Jerusalem, carrying its inhabitants into exile. But the God who Habakkuk hoped in, would not abandon the children of Israel in their exile but would bring them back home again.
Similarly, I don’t know how each of our stories will enfold. Fire, droughts, pandemics, and political turmoil happen, and we may be in for a hard road ahead. But I do know this, despite what happens, God will not abandon us. Despite war, famine, drought, destruction, difficult diagnoses, grief, despair, God loves each of us; each of us are held within the Triune God’s loving care.
What are the things that give you hope? How do you hold out hope for God’s deliverance amidst the struggles and uncertainty of this life?