Hope Amidst the Unlikely (The Story: Chapter 2)

Abraham caressing Isaac (Rembrandt)
There is so much about the Abraham-through-Jacob-story of Genesis that is so unlikely: old bodies giving birth, lying, wrestling with brother, wrestling with God, refugees becoming great, stealing birthrights, to name a few. And on the back end of unlikeliness we have hope because we know how the story goes. But on the front end of unlikeliness, while we are still in the unlikely, there is often no hope. 

Hope is not always immediately or obviously found. There are more reasons not to hope than to hope. Sometimes hopelessness comes in the waiting, sometimes in the barrenness, sometimes in the long journey to a new place. 

I visited a friend last week who has declined over the last three months because something is attacking his brain. Tests are still inconclusive. The doctors are still scratching their heads. They think they know what it is not, but they don't know what it is. Without a diagnosis, there is no prognosis. 

There is fear and uncertainty, yet he is surrounded by hope. His wife cares for him, prays, thinks the best, welcomes others in to help, creates a space at home where he is not agitated, while they wait for results from labs thousands of miles away. Others are entering in, making a meal, reading the paper, sharing a story, patient while words don't come out as they should from this bright mind.


The writer of Hebrews honors Abraham in chapter 11, and Paul lifts up Abraham's relationship with God and faith in Romans 4. Peterson paraphrases verse 18: "Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do, but on what God said he would do." (The Message)


Faith is acting as if God were at work, believing that God would do what he said he would do: be with us always, provide what we need, call us by name, forgive our sin and shortcomings, come to us as friend and stranger. 


We joined in a 80th birthday celebration last weekend. Around him were his wife, four children, their spouses, and grandchildren from sixth grade to grad school. They all shared what they remember about him. "You were there," they each said in their own way, at ball games, concerts, teaching math, home projects. After all the affirmation and appreciation, he said, "One day maybe you'll be grandparents. I didn't know my grandfather. I barely knew my own dad. I don't know how to do this. By God's grace we're here." 


It seems to me like he acted in hope, that God would lead, in spite of the barren experiences of his past. Maybe hope is as easy as not focusing on what I can't do, or don't think I can do, or don't know how to do, or what I've never done before. Maybe it's looking for what God is doing, what God promises he will do and taking one more step in faith.



Comments

  1. Thanks Mike. Nice view of hope. A twist that we tend to forget about. Always feeling limited rather than the gracious space we are given. Even if we get most of the garden, there is always that one thing we think God is keeping from us...

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