The Distinction Between In and For - Part 1
- Thursday, February 19, 2009
Unless the cold of winter has moved beyond our bones and into our hearts, unless we have allowed the bumps and bruises of life to numb us—the New Year holds hope.
Despite all that has passed up till now, the New Year holds the promise of something better, the promise of a new tomorrow. It is true that winter has only just begun and that the spring of our youth is not ahead—but behind. There is hope, but it has been trampled and mishandled so that we dare not believe this year will be any different from last year. Last year’s hopes lie crumpled by the curb. The voices whisper, “Perhaps it is better to give up hope than face yet another year of disappointment.” Never!
In this time of longing, and waiting, this unique place of suffering our “perseverance” should produce “character” and character should produce hope, but it is not automatic (Romans 5:4). Paul tells us “hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5). This time of longing should be characterized by hope, but it is not always so.
As for me I cannot and will not live without hope. I cannot and will not pretend that my refusal to ask and hope "in" the Lord is faith. I do not perceive it as faith but stoicism: a noble idea that to suffer and endure lack without a word is more spiritual. It is the false idea that to ask of God is weakness. It is also the very human idea that to hope is to risk disappointment. To hope IS to risk disappointment. Hope anyway! Risk anyway!
Insecurity caused me to live by fear, and the fear would not allow me to risk. I had no boldness in relationships because I lived in fear and the fear of disappointment constricted hope. Then Love whispered, “No matter how far you fall I will catch you.” Ah! That is what I longed to hear. For then no risk was fatal. In the midst of Love’s fair garden hope sprung up. Its scent was sweet and its blossom beautiful, and I swooned at its touch. If you want permission to hope this year for a husband or wife—hope! Hope that the Lord of heaven will grace you this year with marriage and if He does not—trust His kindness to keep you.
I nurture hope because I am safe and secure in His hands. Once, when I was terrified of failure (now I am just afraid) I risked little and buried hope beneath pragmatic words such as “realistic.” “Be realistic!” “Be real!” Which was my subtle way of saying, “Don’t dream!” But tell me, who hopes for what is? Who dreams of the way things are?! Why bother? What a miserable world to dream into existence—the world that is. No one would dream if all things were as they should be. All is not as it should be. Hope is an honest confession that all is not well and that we are not home yet. Hope for a relationship is the confession that, “It is not good…” He is good! But all is not well with the world and we have a personal longing we wish fulfilled.
Some of us have at some point turned from hope to obsession, from hope to fixation, and passed on to stubbornness. This is not hope and has little relation to true hope. It is self-will at best and desperation at worst. If the person is not in the Lord, if you are ill matched, if you are in sin, get out! Leave off hope! Instead of hoping in this person, take a step back and—through purity and obedience—hope in God. There is a hope that is not hope but wishfulness, a hope called foolishness and delusion. I do not mean this form of self-deception falsely called hope.
But neither can I encourage hopelessness. Our life in Christ is a hope for what we do not yet have, a desire to be what we are not—holy. So we hope always to be more like Christ this coming year than we were last year. We long to be more like Him tomorrow than we are today. We hope to be closer to Him in an hour than we are in this minute. And we can hope to be married this year if we are not today. It is okay to nurture this hope within the safety of His grace.
Here is my caution. Here is how I see hope in service of the believer. It is a prepositional distinction—the distinction between in and for.
Our faith in every way bleeds hope. Hope is evidenced even in the darkness of the cross. But if we hope, we hope not just for a husband or wife. We hope in a God who loves us and desires to bless us. We hope in God for the gift of a husband or wife. We can therefore hope for a husband or wife but never place our hope in a husband or wife. This is true before we are married and true if we get married.
The truth is husbands or wives can disappoint. We make our requests open with hands hoping that we will have what we desire because “God is love” and “love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). What we dare not do is place our hope in a person or thing, husband or wife, for then we become as the foolish builder who built on sand. What will be our condition when the storms come—and the storms will come.
I meet person after person who have deep struggles in their walks with Christ due to failed human relationships. How can this be? It cannot be otherwise if hope is placed in the object, and that object becomes the source of hope itself. Then the failure of the relationship means that hope itself has failed us. It means that God has failed to obey our dreams, failed to conform to our hope—though misplaced.
But this is not hope, and it was never a good idea. No! Hope is placed in God for whatever He will bring to us. We confess this because we know He loves us. The object of our hope is merely a function of our desire. It is proper, but must keep its place. Nothing but God is our right. He is our inheritance. We hope for a relationship with the understanding that it is through His grace that we shall be blessed. I don’t deserve a wife, but hope that grace will provide. We will speak another time of my part in the play. What I know is that short of grace no relationship is truly a blessing.
The benefit of hope is the benefit of faith. It is the peace of knowing that while we are not always the people we are called to be, He is always a faithful Father who will not give a snake when we ask for bread. The benefit is a tempered approach that avoids desperation and thus—poor choices. It is tragic when the “ideal of marriage” is shattered and the real “relationship,” the real “person,” becomes too real. Hope then, rests in our God for His gracious blessings—whatever they may be. For it is He who calls us to “ask” and we ask according to His will (Matthew 7:7).
Hudson Russell Davis was born on a small Island in the West Indies called Dominica, and this is only one reason he does not like cold weather and loves guava. He is a graduate of James Madison University with a B.A. in Graphic Design and earned a Masters in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Currently he is a Ph.D. candidate at Saint Louis University studying historical theology. Hudson has worked as a graphic artist and worship leader but expresses himself through poetry, prose, photography, and music. His activities are just about anything outdoors, but tennis is his current passion.
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