Every now and then, something happens in life that seems to destroy any chance of the outcome we had been praying for and expecting. Along with the pain and grief comes dashed hope. It taunts our minds, making it hard to trust even ourselves again. “Why should I allow the birth of any new hope when the last hope proved so fragile?”
The disciples experienced dashed hope when Jesus died. Two of them admitted it to the stranger who joined them as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
“We were hoping that it was [Jesus] who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21)
Their hope had centered on “Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people” (Luke 24:19). Instead of redeeming Israel from her subjection to Roman rule, Jesus had been killed by Jewish and Roman rulers. Just three days after His death, confusing rumors had begun to circulate, rumors of Jesus being alive again, but nothing substantial—just a missing body.
It’s the kind of thing that happens to us when a vision dies. Perhaps a relationship is destroyed by misunderstanding, or some badly timed or clumsy words. Maybe the team leader falls into sin or becomes sick and can no longer lead the way. Our child needs special attention and now I do not have the time. The church splits. The supporter no longer has money to give. The bank forecloses. . . . But we were hoping for another outcome that would, of course, bring great glory to God.
Grief and pain can be comforted. Eventually life grows around them and they become relatively less significant over time, except when something reminds us of the loss. Dashed hope objects to comfort and to the idea that some new hope might replace it.
So how do we deal with dashed hope? Jesus walked His two friends through it.
- Welcome the stranger. We would not have the story in Luke 24 if the disciples had not allowed the stranger to join them. Jesus wants to join us in our grief—not superficially but deeply. Share with Him the deepest, darkest pain and hopelessness. Recognize that no human emotion is too much for Him. He cares about them all. As we face our agony while welcoming His presence He is able to do miracles.
- Answer the questions. Do not be afraid to let Him dissect your thoughts and feelings. “What is your heart saying?” “What has really happened?” “What exactly are you feeling?” “Why?” “What were you hoping for?” “Why are you confused?”
- Notice the burning. We don’t always recognize the Lord immediately. If our lives are open to Him then He often whispers to us through the Bible passages we are led to, circumstances, the comments of others, even our own random thoughts. We might only feel a burning in our hearts but it can be a signal to pay attention.
- Bury the dashed hope and allow Jesus to birth a new and greater hope. Jesus’ way is not easy to accept. The idea that it was “necessary for the Christ to suffer these things” before He could “enter into His glory” is too somber for most of us (Luke 24:26). But God demonstrates His glory by resurrecting life out of suffering and death. In our case, the hopes that we cherish are often limited. They are based on a small view of God (Jesus the prophet, rather than the Messiah). We long for our circles of influence to be touched (those hopes die hard); but He plans to impact the world. Israel would be redeemed, but so would Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.
- Give Him time. The disciples still did not get it! Even six weeks later, as Jesus was about to ascend, they were still hoping for national restoration (Acts 1:6). It takes a conscious effort to hold down, with one hand, our squirming old hopes while, with the other hand, we reach out to receive some new hope that the Lord is preparing to give us.
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