Disappointed. Disillusioned. Discontent.
These words swirl through conversations these days. In a way, it’s reassuring—to know that I’m not the only one feeling that way. In a way, there’s a hope to it—that maybe all the discontentment with the old will lead mercifully into something new.
We’re disappointed because things didn’t go as we expected. Or because things aren’t the way they once seemed to be. We’re disappointed because people didn’t turn to be out who we once thought they were, and we’re disappointed because we didn’t turn out to be as we thought we were. We are weaker. Frailer. Less measured and controlled. The pressure cooker of 2020 sifted some things out in us that we honestly wish weren’t there.
We’re disillusioned because the places and the people that we’ve always turned to haven’t been as consistent or as steady as we thought they would be. People we love have stiff-armed us for fear of illness, and regardless of our beliefs about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of that, it has hurt us to some degree. People we respect have labeled and maligned others we respect, and our necks are stiff from the volleying accusations strewn about the Internet.
We’re discontent because we feel our human-nature slipping back into the same patterns that have already failed us once. Our flesh may crave the comfort of the familiar, but our spirits balk at it—distrust it, somehow unsatisfied with what we thought we wanted back in March.
But I wonder. If we dared to embrace this disillusionment in the presence of the Lord, might we find the kind of healing and hope that will not fail when bigger waves than this one come against us?
I’m old enough not to be surprised that 2021 hasn’t brought the magic cure for 2020, but perhaps I’m still young enough to believe that this year and the last could press us closer to the presence of God in a way that steadies our feet and strengthens our feeble knees for the long-haul of life.
The world is listening for Hope—real Hope, and Church, if I may be so bold: our rumblings and grumblings are nearly void of it.
And in the void of Hope, people will cling to just about anything that offers them a promise (even if it’s a false promise) of something that will satisfy, of any person or place or politic that will offer them some semblance of the hope that our hearts were made to hold.
We live among (and are ourselves) people clinging to 1000 second-bests because we have deprived ourselves and others of the better hope.
Why do we cling to presidential candidates? Because our hearts were made to long for a Coming King.
Why do we fight so savagely for a political party (any of them) we know will fail, at some point, to uphold the whole of the gospel? Because we know, inherently, that there must be hope for this earth—a kingdom yet to come, but we’ve forsaken the Source of it.
Why do we either recoil or rejoice in the coming of a vaccine? Because our fragile, mortal frames house spirits not designed for death.
Why do we take comfort in masks? Because we weren’t made for a world ravaged by illness.
Why do we want to weep in the carpool line as we watch mothers pull those masks from their children’s faces, revealing more fully the one they love? Because we were created for connection that cloth coverings (whether we deem them necessary or not) deprive us of.
These feeble hearts hold the capacity for a Hope much bigger than any worldly source can fill.
But here is the problem: we cannot herald a Hope we do not have.
We may know Christ came. We may know He is our Savior. We may find peace and even joy in the fact that we are forgiven and that He has restored our relationship with God. But if our gospel has taught us that that’s the end of the story—that we have been given this gift of eternal life, and now our job is to make the best of it, it’s no wonder we’re left longing.
Jesus didn’t hand out rose-colored glasses alongside the chalice full of His blood. He didn’t pep-talk His followers for optimistic outlooks in the face of the cross. He told them it would be hard. He told them it would require (of many of them) their very lives. In fact, He told them the world would give them trouble (John 16:33).
And then He told them He had not simply come to make it “better,” instead, He had overcome it (John 16:33). He had come…He will come…to make this earth His own.
And as He left this earth in His miraculously resurrected body, He didn’t tell them to make the best of it. He didn’t tell them to be thankful for what they had and long for nothing else. He told them they would be His witnesses—of who He is and of what He’d done. And then God sent them an angel to tell them that Jesus would be back “just the way He had gone” (Acts 1:10).
Jesus actually is enough, but the reason so many of us are left longing for more than what we know of Him is because we’ve robbed Him of the work He’s yet to do.
He’s coming back, and we get to long for His appearing!
He’s coming back, and He will destroy the death that has long been defeated.
He’s coming back, and the world systems will surrender (willingly or otherwise) to His Lordship.
He’s coming back, and He’ll set up a Kingdom on this earth that will finally reflect the glory of God rather than the corruptness His creation chose.
He’s coming back!
And, if we only glimpsed what that return will bring, our hope will find footing even in these most uncertain times.
We aren’t only witnesses of what He’s already done. We’re witnesses waiting for what He’s yet to do!
We’re witnesses longing for the still-Coming King.
Hope takes hold.