Sunday, 23 March 2014

When Hope Looks Lost

 Sometimes I am filled with a great weariness. There is, all around, brokenness and emptiness, and my own dissatisfaction and my gaping failure, and the yet-unfulfilled promises of God. My despair is the more deep because my hope is high, and I hope still, but I am weary with the wait, and hope's joy has gone out into the vast dim.

But I have seen prayer answered unexpectedly this week - a small, pale prayer offered despondently, then answered swift and sure - and some winged thing in me has got to fluttering again.
The Son of God hung on the cross, and the Father had his hands in his pockets, so it seemed. Even the Messiah was not out of the enemy’s reach. Or was he?
See, it was in this moment of disarray — in this Chaos of chaos — that everything “looked” destroyed and turned upside down. But it was here, by all visible accounts, when things were the most over, that in fact they were the most not.
It appeared evil had won. That God was dead. That his enemies triumphed. But no.
It was in his dying, when our hope looked lost, that Jesus was actually securing it. It was when darkness covered the land, over against the Son’s forsaken cries, that light began to dawn and the Father realized his eternal purpose for the world. Beyond what it seemed, beyond what the circumstances would suggest, God was the one in triumph. Sunday morning made it sure.
So just when we thought he’d be gone forever, he was actually lifted up as the one who would never leave us, nor forsake us — the one who would say, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)
- from Ten Thousand Things We Can't See, by Jonathan Parnell
I keep waiting, child that I am, for my own personal Messiah to come riding in on his white horse and sweep me up in glorious triumph and vindicate me...and, after all, preserve my pride. But the truth is this: I haven't bargained for the kind of life that is held firmly in hand. I "have bargained," with Jim Elliot, "for a cross". And after all, I do want a life that lifts up Christ, not me. I do want to follow the Man of Sorrows. I want to bend myself down before him, to kiss his lovely feet.
One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?” and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself.
On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, “I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.”
By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay.
I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge...
You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds. (Charles Spurgeon, - from An All Round Ministry)
But what of all the "hurrying, eager longing" that will not be stilled? What of all my deep heart hurt? Who will guide me? Where shall I find a vision?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
(Isaiah 58:6-11)
There is a God who hears. He is there and he is not silent. He knows this heart of mine, and he could change it if he chose.
Desire is not merely a simple wish; it is a deep seated craving; an intense longing, for attainment. In the realm of spiritual affairs, it is an important adjunct to prayer. So important is it, that one might say, almost, that desire is an absolute essential of prayer. Desire precedes prayer, accompanies it, is followed by it. Desire goes before prayer, and by it, created and intensified. Prayer is the oral expression of desire. If prayer is asking God for something, then prayer must be expressed. Prayer comes out into the open. Desire is silent. Prayer is heard; desire, unheard. The deeper the desire, the stronger the prayer. Without desire, prayer is a meaningless mumble of words. Such perfunctory, formal praying, with no heart, no feeling, no real desire accompanying it, is to be shunned like a pestilence. Its exercise is a waste of precious time, and from it, no real blessing accrues.
A sense of need creates or should create, earnest desire. The stronger the sense of need, before God, the greater should be the desire, the more earnest the praying. The "poor in spirit" are eminently competent to pray.
Hunger is an active sense of physical need. It prompts the request for bread. In like manner, the inward consciousness of spiritual need creates desire, and desire breaks forth in prayer. Desire is an inward longing for something of which we are not possessed, of which we stand in need -- something which God has promised, and which may be secured by an earnest supplication of His throne of grace. (E. M. Bounds)
I will seek the glory of One whose name is Merciful and True. I will offer him my aching wish for direction and warmth and belonging. I will pour out before him all my emptiness and confused desire, and he will turn it into a prayer. I will turn to him in frantic moments, and I will seek him in my bewildered wanting, and I will make this heart-gap his, and all my hurt and hope will become supplication and praise.
"...And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings." (Gerard Manley Hopkins) 

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