Friday, February 27, 2009

When All Hope Seems Gone... Enter Faith

It must be everybody’s model nightmare. Imagine coming to a point of near death having to make one last ditch effort to save yourself, perhaps because you’re stranded on a snow peak, out in the bush or floating alone in the open ocean. You’ve lost every sense of hope… then, beyond belief, you get rescued.

Strangely, we all relate with this sort of story because, for all of us, we’ve had times of sheer hopelessness where we were just about to, or did, give up.

And for the Christian we’re taught that this circumstance is just the beginning really.

“Those of us who encounter despair need to remember that our greatest opportunity to glorify God is when all hope is gone.”[1]

C.S. Lewis is cited by Andrews on the same page as the above quote, that “when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys,”[2] we see a faith that is truly unshakable.

That’s real faith. This reminds us of Psalm 22 which Jesus quoted when he was absolutely spent, strung up on the cross; he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (See Mark 15:34) The overall lament is a sweet chorus of God’s faithfulness and love in the darkest of times, but it’s chillingly stark during this ultra short stanza, as the psalmist shakes his fist at God. Yet God delivered David; and he delivered Jesus; and he delivers us, even at times when we turn our back on him.

To get to a point of shouting, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” must be the closest we can come to the strongest position of faith--still holding God to account when in downright despair. It’s still holding fast to God even when we feel he’s totally given up and abandoned us. (The truth is he never abandons us--see Hebrews 13:5.)

A classic irony is this. When we’re brought to that place of inconsolable despair, God is astoundingly close. So tragically painful is that situation though God is closer than ever before.[3] Why? Because we might finally reach out in truth--in truly needing him; in the humble acceptance of our Creator. We then stand on the cusp of deliverance!

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Dave Andrews, Christi-Anarchy: Discovering a Radical Spirituality of Compassion (Armidale, Australia: Tafina Press, 1999), p. 145.
[2] Andrews, Ibid, p. 145, citing C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters (Century Press, 1942), p. 47.
[3] God, of course, is always there. It only seems like he abandons; he is never truly absent.

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