News flash: Jesus Calls Us To Give Up Hope!
Matthew tells us Mary and Joseph were required to believe Jesus was the Savior of the world while they
themselves had to save him from Herod’s soldiers by fleeing into Egypt in the middle of the night! If they had any hope God was going to protect them by a legion of angels, they lost it right quick.
The only help they got from an angel was a warning to Joseph: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt… Herod is searching for the child, to destroy him.”
Jesus calls us to trust in God, but to give up any expectation that he is going to help us in the way we expect. This calls us into a crisis of hope.
Jesus doesn’t want us to put our hope or our trust in anything in this world. That is why he does to us what the Father did to him: he leaves us without the things people count on in this world for security and success: money, prestige, and power (Matthew 6:19; 10:9). He even lets us experience moral weakness and spiritual failures, so we won’t put any trust in our virtue or devotion.
To keep us from trusting in any human qualities, God chose a murderer to lead his people out of Egypt (Exodus 2:11). He chose another murderer, who was unfaithful to his wife (2Samuel 11:3) and betrayed his loyal officer (2Samuel 11:14), to be the most famous ancestor of the Messiah. And for the first pope Jesus chose a man who “cursed and swore” that he did not know him (Matthew 26:74). To Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, he gave “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan,” to keep him from “being too elated” by his visions and revelations.
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong (2Corinthians 12:1).
There is a principle that is frequently (but not always) true: “The absence of the human is the revelation of the divine.” For example, the absence of a human father revealed that the Father of Jesus was God. And when Jesus sent his disciples on mission (Matthew 10:9), the absence of human resources showed that they were relying on God. So when we find ourselves trusting in God in the absence of any visible help from him, it reveals to us that our hope in him is divine; that is, based on divine faith, and is the fruit of divine love.
There is not much we can give God in return for all he has given to us; but it means a lot to say “yes” when he asks us to trust him without seeing any reason on earth why we should. That is real loyalty, real friendship.
Our gift to God is really his gift to us. Abraham was receiving a great blessing when, “hoping against hope” (Romans 4:18), he continued to trust that God would give him a posterity while he sacrificed the only possible human means to that, his only son, Isaac. When we trust God in the absence of all human hope, we are growing in the hope that is divine; just as we are growing in divine faith when we believe “blindly,” by the “dark light of faith”—which is, but does not seem to be, the truest light there is.
And there is no love greater than to give everything we are to God, even our life, when at the moment he seems to be giving nothing to us. That is what Jesus did on the cross.
When we find that we are able to believe, to trust, and to love in the absence of any human motivation to do so, we experience that we are divine.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5).
One of the greatest mistakes we make is to define happiness—unconsciously—in two different ways. We define happiness in heaven as perfect union of mind and will and heart with God, experienced here and now as faith, hope and love. But on this earth, inconsistently, we act as if we identified happiness with comfort, prosperity, success, good human relationships, or perhaps the ability to provide for the temporal well-being of our children. It is not evident in our choices—in the way we spend our energy, our money, and our time—that we think we will find happiness by pursuing deeper knowledge of God. We spend years acquiring professional training, but won’t spend 15 minutes a day reading the Bible. We make business plans, retirement plans, physical fitness plans, but if asked, “What is your plan, your concrete program, for growing into the fullness of the Christian life,” most of us wouldn’t know what to say.
We give the impression that we believe “There’ll be pie in the sky when we die,” but that on earth happiness consists in getting the most we can out of what this world offers here and now. Little in our lifestyle shocks people so much that we are frequently challenged “to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1Peter 3:15).
It is the visible absence of hope in the human that reveals our hope in the divine—to others and to ourselves.
So we shouldn’t complain when God calls us into a crisis of hope by letting us be deprived of something that gives the illusion of security or of happiness. There is no security except from God, and no happiness outside of union of mind and will and heart with him. Everything else either leads us to this or keeps us from it.
When we forget that, we are blessed if God calls us into crisis.
That is something just reading this reflection might do!
(For more on this, see Why Jesus, chapter nine: “Jesus Is Security In God Alone.” The book Why Jesus? was “freely received” and now is “freely given.” Just click on the book cover to the left and start reading!
Question: Does this reflection call you into crisis? Are you going to keep reading this blog?