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Woman with Crossed Arms by Picasso

this post is part of the Lenten series on hope

As we head toward Good Friday and the Easter weekend, I find myself thinking about those times when our hope fails. Certainly hope was in short commodity for those disciples who sat helpless and hopeless while they watched their beloved friend and teacher put to death.

Waiting outside in the courtyard for Jesus' trial to convene, Peter's confidence melts away. An inundation of fear courses through his body, causing him to deny that he even knew Jesus, his third response punctuated with a volley of curses to leave no doubt in the mind of the questioning servant girl. There might have been moments when a chance, meager though it was, was offered to the band of believers. Perhaps the disciples hear of the dream of Pilate's wife's, her impassioned plea to let this Jewish prisoner go. Could it be? No, Pilate refuses to let his wife tell him what to do. The sinking feeling returns. But what about the yearly release of a political prisoner? Maybe that is a way out? No. Pilate is releasing Barabbas. Nothing can be done now. Jesus' fate is sealed. 

Overwhelmed with emotion, sleep deprived and weary, the men and women who had followed Jesus had little to cling onto as they watched him stumble toward Golgotha. Depleted, they stood stunned and grieving at the cross; later, gathering for moral support, they cowered behind closed doors. Perhaps their state of mind was best expressed by Cleopas, one of the men the risen Lord appeared to on the way to Emmaus, when he asked, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard the news? Jesus, a prophet mighty in deed and word before all the people was sentenced to death and crucified. But we were hoping he would be the one to redeem Israel." (Luke 24:21)

When hope fails, then what?

There are times when, like those early disciples, people move beyond hope. There are times when one cannot even muster up faith - in God, in the goodness of humanity, in their ability to cope, in any possible future good. I don't know that I've ever been in that place myself, but I know it exists. And I'm not sure  what one can do for themselves when that's their experience. Maybe all one can do is wait in the darkness.

But I'm hopeful for those who are going through periods of hopelessness. When one doesn't the ability to find hope, when there is no energy to exercise faith, all is not lost. It's then that Paul's words from I Corinthians 13 speak into the darkness. "Three things  will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love." God wants us to know that when we can't, He still can. His love will always flow. And this love doesn't depend on us. God's love is the organizing and sustaining force behind our world. It continues whether we believe in it or not; it does not fluctuate when our ability to hope sputters and dies.

When hope falters, we are still held. When our faith fails, God's does not. No matter what, love remains.

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After the Last Tear Falls by Andrew Peterson from his album Love and Thunder
4/6/2012 02:04:17 am

'When hope falters, we are still held'. God has been holding me a lot lately. When my faith begins to waver it is a slippery slide into hopelessness and I have to continually 'choose' faith.

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4/10/2012 09:49:28 am

And isn't it great to know that God is behind and beneath and in us even helping us to choose faith? I believe, help me in my unbelief says the man with the sick son. And Jesus graciously grants both this request and the request to heal the son.

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