The passage in John 11:17-27 tells the story of when Jesus found out his friend, Lazarus was dead. Had been dead for a few days. His sisters were lamenting and questioning his timing…
One of my former pastors and friend, Hilary Millikan penned this great post on hope based on this passage of scripture and graciously allowed me to re-post it here. Hilary is an exceptionally talented writer who gives us a great dose of “wow!” laced with humor. I hope you are encouraged by her words.
Let Hope Arise by Hilary Millikan
I had the privilege of writing and recording a message on Hope for the beginning of Advent at our church. Most of you know that hope is my main “lane” in life. There is always hope. But only because we have THE Hope. How filling it is to rehearse and articulate what we have lived and become convinced of in the Lord. May hope arise and re-arise for each of us…
Now hope… is tricky.
There’s that verse in Proverbs that says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes it is the tree of life.” So simple. So short. So catchy.
But anyone who has spent any time in the first half of that Scripture, who has lived out the carving of that first phrase is familiar with what a desperate, lonely, painful place hope can be.
The very presence of hope in my life means that I have unfulfilled promises, unanswered pleas, unhealed woundings. Especially right now, when my hope is basically on its “last leg.” The ropes that tether hope to my heart and keep it from flinging wildly away from my soul are strained because my everyday is now filled with unfamiliar and new “hopes” that I now have to navigate.
I hope my children come out of this pandemic emotionally unscathed. I hope this is just a cold and not something trying to kill me. I hope when I go to the store I don’t accidentally pick up an extra carton of COVID.
It’s hard to keep a “stiff upper lip” in my day-to-day, much less give any sort of trusting thoughts or faith-filled prayers to the deeper, longer-lived, farther away hopes. And as in this story, it is especially hard to hope when it is just plain too late.
I’m always struck by how Jesus asks Martha and Mary to trust Him even though Lazarus is ACTUALLY DEAD. There’s not much more to do here, nothing left to hope for. And yet, Jesus comes offering them hope–Hope in Me, can you trust Me, do you believe Me?
I don’t know how you’ve reacted to Jesus when He’s tried to touch your “too late” spot with His hope, but I’ve reacted much like Martha and Mary. “Lord,” they BOTH said, “if You had been here–if You had come when we called for You, if You’d answered us. You, Who we DO hope in, Who we DID hope in, because… You could have… I know You could have, if You’d been HERE where we are, where Lazarus was, where it was all going down, in that moment, if You’d been HERE WHERE I AM, then it wouldn’t have happened this way.”
The implication (at least in my heart) being, “But You weren’t. And I don’t understand why. I trusted You. I hoped in You. I put all of my hope in You. And You didn’t come when I needed You. It’s too late. You came too late.”
When things don’t go the way we had hoped, when things are so far away from what we believe would or should be true of our lives, it has a way of sometimes even making us question what is true of the Lord.
I remember a time when I just couldn’t reconcile the goodness of God with the gaping loss in my life. When I couldn’t put together this God that I had trusted my whole life and given my every moment with what had happened. How could He allow this to be? He could have stopped it. He could have fixed it. He could have… He could have… Why wouldn’t He… How can I trust a God who didn’t when He could have?
Jesus’ answer to Martha? Do you believe Me? Do you believe that I AM the life? Do you believe that I AM your hope? Not just something to hope in, but I AM hope itself? Do you believe this?Martha’s like “don’t come at me with all Your there’s-hope-in-the-end, it’ll-all-be-fine-in-Heaven stuff. That doesn’t help me NOW. That doesn’t help me HERE.”
Again, but before He has done anything, before anything has changed, Jesus stands before her and says, “Yes, but Martha… Do you believe Me?” Martha says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are everything I hoped You were. You are God. You are my hope.”
The Lord asked me in my moment, “Do you believe Me?” And immediately my spirit cried out Yes! I believe You. I don’t know what to do with You, I don’t know how to trust You, but I know I believe You.
And it was enough.
Somehow the formation of what I DO believe quieted all the unanswerable questions that had caused me so much disbelief, and the faint whispers of hope began.
I also have experienced times in the midst of my darkest, farthest, not-sure-I-will-make-it-out-alive places, when the Lord’s words and promises, it’s like they hurt. There was a time when I was so desperate, so close to the edge of myself, that I told the Lord, Enough! Enough promises! Stop. I can’t take one more promise from You. I can’t take the presence of one more unfulfilled thing that I have to hold onto. I can’t… I can’t do it. I can’t hope. I’m like Lazarus, Lord. My hope is dead. And I’m not far behind it. I can’t hold on anymore.
I need hope to hold onto me.
Sometimes we say to our souls–like Martha and David and so many others–“oh my soul, trust in the Lord, hope in the Lord! Let hope arise!” And our souls respond.
Sometimes we are like Lazarus himself, where there is not even the option to hope anymore. Still Jesus stands outside the tomb of our heart and calls us forth. He calls hope to arise from places that feel long gone. Because, He has been there. That’s why He is our hope.
He has been to hell and back again. He has experienced the utter betrayal and abandonment of the Lord. He has born our grief, our sorrows. He has been unable to lift even His head. He has been to the unimaginable edges of His heart and life. He has asked God why. He has even heard nothing in return. He has been here. He knows this place. But more importantly, He knows the way.
He IS the way to hope everlasting.
He is the life to our long-gone places. He is the truth that makes that way. He is our morning star, a promise in the darkest of our nights that MORNING IS COMING.
He IS coming.
Though you be bones in a valley, though you be a body in a tomb, though you be grieving an unbelievable actuality, though you be living a hell. Do you believe Him? It is enough.
And may He who IS our Hope arise in your heart, in your situation, in your soul, outside your tomb, in your yesterday today and tomorrow. May hope arise.
“God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” Psalm 46:5
To hear Hilary’s podcast of this post click here.
I’m grateful for the influence Hilary has had in my life and my family’s life. She is a woman of great faith and wisdom, not to mention fun and quirky humor. Thank you, Hilary!