Suffering and grief take a brutal toll on the human person. Such times have a way of shaking us to our core. All that is unnecessary and peripheral is leveled as the truly important is left standing firm. Discrepancies between mere professions of belief versus its actual living out are soon apparent when ones sense of security is unalterably shaken. Thus, there is no better crucible for hope than suffering.
The human brain is wired to make sense of confusing situations and to solve problems that cause pain. We are born with a survival instinct that so depends on answers that we have become addicted to them. So when suffering strikes we look for reasons, seek answers, and try to understand why. While this human drive is necessary for physical survival it is insufficient for Christian hope.
Therefore, when adequate answers fail to appear and we feel the approaching tide of desperation, we must remember that hope depends on the kind of desperation we choose… earthly or holy. In the place of holy desperation, the vulnerability of life becomes evident and we see that only God is capable of being a true shelter in the storms of life (Psalm 18:2).
Here we finally understand that answers are not the answer for hope. Why? There is no answer that can settle our hearts with the question of suffering because each answer ultimately begs another question… and then another… and another. Hope is a consequence of faith formed and shaped in the fires of relationship—communion with God.
In the furnace of suffering, those who choose to trust beyond the silence of answers will discover the tangibly intangible answer of God’s presence. But where is such a faith found? How can I have a faith that is more certain than answers?
We can learn something about hope and answers from Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73. Asaph was struggling with why wicked and evil men seem to prosper while the righteous suffer. He wrestled so much over this question that it became oppressively overwhelming (73:16). In the end, he gained understanding only after he entered the sanctuary (73:17). In Asaph’s day, the sanctuary was a place of prayer and worship.
We can learn from Asaph that God’s presence is the “answer” to our questions of suffering. When we engage his presence, whether in prayer, worship, or solitude… though nothing outwardly may change, everything suddenly feels totally different. We discover that hope is inseparable from God’s presence. Answers seem strangely irrelevant in light of the security and contentment he offers to those who earnestly seek him. Next week we look at how our relationship with God influences our experience of hope and our understanding of Christian salvation.
What Do You Think?
Have you ever experienced a sense of hope beyond answers “in the sanctuary”? Try to put in words how you felt before and after the sanctuary.