Monday, August 05, 2013

The Discipline of Hope.

Desire. Desire fuels so much of our lives. We want love, money, things, friendships, and all manner of other things. We desire joy in our lives, and we pursue it through a variety of means. The Declaration of Independence calls it the "Pursuit of Happiness." All of mankind has desire.

Loss. Loss drains us of our will to continue. Loss of love, money, things, friendships, and all manner of other things. We lose on a daily basis. Our time spent on a fruitless endeavor, friendships turned sour, money spent on wasteful things, a loss of self worth from the words of another. All of mankind has felt loss.

How are we to respond to loss and desire? Desire drives us forward, loss beats us down.
After being beat down enough times, it is so very understandable that we begin to give up on our desires. On hope.

Hope is defined as the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. We may hope in any number of things, but as believers in the Christ our truest, most faithful hope is in the atonement Jesus gave us on the cross. Or, more rather, the fuller action of making us co-heirs with Him as Sons and Daughters of God. That promise of family and future, our shared inheritance, is the hope of our hearts. We strive and long for it as man in the desert longs for a single glass of water.

The denial of our desires has so often driven out our hope. How? God's promises are sound, our future is true after our very deaths, so how does loss turn into despair?

The denial of desire in our current circumstance is used to cast doubt on the veracity of God's promise. "If God loved you, why would He send you through this pain?" "If God loved you, why would he allow you to hurt?" "If God loved you, why... why... why...?" "If God loves you enough to save you, where is He?" "Where was God when...?" "Where is God now?" "Was God ever there?"

In response to the questions both from within and without we must have a discipline in the truth. We, like soldiers, must be so practiced in the arts of combat then when the Enemy begins to attack we do not doubt or freeze but we spring into action. We identify the source of the attack, and we with ferocity counter attack. We find the root cause of our pain and loss, and we cut it off. It may take days, weeks, or years to fight it back as the Enemy pours in more pain and doubt, but ever vigilant we must maintain faith and discipline for the truth of God's love. We must maintain hope. And to fight against despair, the Psalmist teaches us of the discipline of hope. To earnestly ask ourselves in the midst of trial and torment, Why are you cast down, O my soul?

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.


My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.


Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
    against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
    deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
    why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?
Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.
Psalms 42-43, ESV

We find here that the desire of the Psalmists heart has been denied, and his oppressors taunt him. He responds by seeking the Lord and His praise. His life is filled with pain and torment, to the point that his soul is feeding on the tears he weeps, and in his weeping he hears "Where is your God?" God seems absent in his life. And if God is absent, what hope does he have? Immediately after identifying the source of his pain, the psalmist goes on the counter attack. 

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Three times the Psalmist finds something that torments his heart. Lack of intimacy and closeness with God in the time of his pain, the affliction of his enemies and their words, and the feeling of rejection from He who would accept us into His refuge. All three themes are present in each chorus and each time the Psalmist speaks to his heart, reminding his soul that there is a future with God. That no matter what trials he may go through he knows that one day he will be in the presence of the Holy God and once again find the joy of giving Him praise and being in relationship with Him again.

Every day we are met in battle, seen or unseen, and desire and hope are met with loss and despair. We can choose to self medicate on satisfying our carnal desires for food, books, toys, sex, or unhealthy relationships. Or we can seek out the Holy and learn the Discipline of Hope. That no matter what dismal circumstance we find ourselves in we immediately chastise our soul for despairing and remind ourselves that once again we shall be in deep and intimate relationship with the most Holy God. To say to ourselves in a spirit of challenge and in spurring ourselves to action "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" Why are you wallowing in self pity? Why are you sitting torn inside me, bleeding out the life of our being for a wound that is only a temporary affliction? "Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God." Get up off the ground, dust yourself off, and remember that God is our hope, God is greater then our pain, God has a deep and beautiful relationship in store for us and this transient pain in life is merely a part of the road to it. I know, even if it requires my death to be there, that I will once again enter the Most Holy Place and in fearless abandon praise the God my God. 

This is a discipline. One does not just recall this in a time of struggle, but it must be kept in our minds and hearts, binding this truth to our soul on a daily basis so that when we are attacked we are armed and defended. No soldier trains for battle the day before the war starts, but instead spends all of his duty time preparing and training. He focuses with intent on his varied duties, and that includes time on the range and in the gym and in the training rooms learning how to fight and gain victory over any enemy that he may find. When the war comes, he is not found wanting or empty, but is filled with a spirit of battle, able to serve and to handle the varied struggles the battle will bring. It is no different for you or I, and we must intensely focus our hearts on preparing ourselves, disciplining ourselves, into the service of our Lord God, the great Commander of our army. Our King has rallied us to fight and serve for His kingdom on this Earth. Our battles may be different than what we see on the news or films, but it is no less real, and the Enemy is not above assassination of our souls. And despair is a choice weapon of his ilk. They will find those who seek to follow God and fill our hearts with despair, disrupting our love affair with the Lord and filling our hearts with bitterness for the trials we face. Remember. We have a promise of co-heirship with Christ. Our inheritance and value is not in this life, but the next. This life is our tour of duty, and we cannot afford to lose our time of service to despair and loss. 

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Follow by Email