With the first day of spring, I saw a flurry of Instagram posts commenting on hope. “Hope!” they proclaimed, with a picture of a tree in bloom. “Spring is here, and so is hope!” Of course, something of the message of hope feels lost when it’s scattered between posts of people seeing Justin Bieber in concert and of perfectly arranged piles of make-up.
And yet, even so, something about these posts rang surprisingly true for me. Call it common grace, but hope really does align with the season. As your resident church year nerd, let me remind you that Sunday was not only the first day of spring, but also Palm Sunday—the first day of Holy Week, and the beginning of the end of Lent, a season marked by bright sadness.
This Lent has been marked by more sadness than brightness in my own life. There is not just one thing to pin the sadness on, but it’s there, burrowing in, and it isn’t quiet.
In this season, it has been so easy to say, “I can’t wait for the day when I _______.” Fill in the blank: have a spouse to walk alongside, have a better work/life balance, am no longer concerned about what people think/keeping up appearances/pick your own poison.
Looking forward is a good thing. It reminds us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel—there’s something to keep working toward. But the tunnel itself? Surely there is light there as well.
The last month has been a time of making small cracks in the side of the tunnel and sitting in the tiny bits of light that stream in. I keep preaching hope to myself.
Every Sunday, my church proclaims the benediction from the Kenyan Book of Prayer, saying that we set all of our hopes on the Risen Christ. I say it every Sunday, pointing to heaven, where my hope comes from. Yet how often do I put all of my hopes on the Risen Christ?
When I’m being honest, I can admit it’s rarely—if ever.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul lists out this beautiful cycle:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-4)
So often I rejoice in the hope of the glory of God as a big, sweeping, eschatological project—I’ll fly away, oh yes, one day. And yet that discipline of rejoicing in my sufferings—Paul says that we rejoice in those and it leads to even more hope. This hope is not easily achieved, but it is rich and has roots that go down deep.
Throughout Holy Week, we see Jesus going before us to model how to do this well. He doesn’t just put on a brave face and deal with it. No, Jesus hopes in faith that God will produce his glory even through the sufferings he must endure.
In that, we can find our hope—that Jesus has already conquered it all, that we are filled up to love through God’s love, that he is leading us, even now to endure. As we walk with him through Holy Week, may we ask God to be present even in the midst of our sadness to produce a deep hope.
Take it with you:
Is there a way that God has been training you in character, endurance, and hope?
Is there any particular aspect about the story of Holy Week that helps you to bear in mind this long view of hope?