“But as a mountain erodes and crumbles and as a rock is moved from its place, as water wears away stones and torrents wash away the soil, so you destroy a person’s hope." — Job 14:18-19
This Advent I am grateful for the gift of hopelessness. Yes, you read that correctly. This past year has been full of heartbreak, suffering, and lament. It follows on the heels of nearly two years of unemployment, financial insecurity, and stress-related health issues. Any hope to which I once clung — any hope outside of God, that is — has been destroyed.
And for that I give thanks.
Anyone who has experienced any kind of suffering knows that it’s a rude awakening. Something breaks in, shattering to pieces every illusion that this life is somehow fair and leaves you feeling heartsick, like the proverb describes. The tree that you thought would give life and shade and fruit and beauty turned out to be a useless stump.
And it’s only a matter of time before something else falls apart. It would seem that it would be better to never hope, rather than to be disappointed again and again.
This summer, as I waited anxiously to hear what was strangely afflicting my father (who had already had several health scares and a heart attack), as I nursed a broken heart and came to grips with personal disappointment, as I watched how a once rosy-outlook turned to a heavy-grey, I learned the true meaning of hope. Everything in this world will break or decay or simply fade away. Nothing here is permanent and even the most seemingly perfect and ideal situation has at least a hairline crack.
Yet the One who Paul refers to as “the God of hope” met me in that hopelessness. Seeing God, who is perfect in holiness, perfect in faithfulness, and perfect in love, juxtaposed with all my other hopes — even the good ones, like having healthy parents — made them look flimsy and dull. As Isaiah wrote thousands of years ago, all of creation withers and fades, yet God’s word endures forever. God’s plans and purposes are not subject to decay. God’s love never fails.
It’s that God of hope that we must long for — and who alone can satisfy our longings. It’s that One who can fill us with “all joy and peace,” as we trust in God. It’s that God who can cause us to “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Each year at Advent we sing about the “thrill of hope” that comes with Christ’s birth. My weary world rejoices as I consider that God has not abandoned me to the hopelessness that comes with this fallen creation, but came down to live in the midst of the fragility and flimsiness of my hopes, to be with me as they shattered or simply faded away. This hope anchors me even when life falls apart. This Advent, may you know this God of hope.
Juliet Vedral is Press Secretary for Sojourners.