The Psalmist says, “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Sometimes our imperfections surface in our failures and our journey towards grace starts there. Never content with just one problem, though, we have no trouble focusing on the aching sorrow that also breaks our hearts; and if we’re not careful, we’ll let a broken and battered frame crumble in pieces while we give up on God.
Even if we still hold fast to the trust we’ve built, we hurt too much to feel the hope God offers. And without it, we are a withering vine in the desert. But God’s hope is never far away.
I know how it feels, that hurt in your heart that goes all the way through to your soul and back again. The pain is tangible and real, a true ache that you can feel in your body that comes from the sorrow of abandonment or disappointment. The more we hurt, the more we cower, figuratively all balled up in a fetal position just waiting for the next blow. We can’t see beyond the tears in our eyes, and our heart clamps down fast as a mousetrap, capturing all the ugly hurt and holding on tight.
The sorrow can come from anywhere, from our own actions, from dreams unfulfilled, from a broken marriage, from a broken relationship, from death of a spouse, etc. Whatever the cause, the effect is the same, a loss of hope in ourselves, our future, our Lord. But that hope we need is far more than it appears to be on the surface. It’s much more than a blind wish for things to get better. It’s a sustaining anticipation of the Lord’s blessings, based on a trust that says He loves us enough to give them to us. And once we feel the hope, we can move on to the purpose, to His work. Hope allows us to carry on, to think toward the future, to break the hold that our imperfection have on us.
When we lose hope, all we can see is what’s gone wrong and what’s unsatisfying or disappointing in our lives. It is then that the grace of God seems like the fleeting scenes of a dream when you awake, out of your grasp and unlikely to return. The sorrow wins, and God cries right along with you.
The interpretation we have that gets us into this hopeless place is that narrow and short-sighted one again, the one that puts more stock in our lack of perfection and the status of our flaws than our bounty of opportunity and the status of our hearts.
We stack up a giant dust pile and justify it because the aches and pains of our soul are so very real, and then we give it a permanent address, as if we will never by touch by God’s merciful hand, as if we are destined to live in the quagmire of sorrow that, somehow, we must deserve. What a mess!
Sometimes, in this state, we turn to even more destructive means to deal with it. Addictions of all kinds can prevail when we lose hope, and the worst may be an addiction to trying to solve our problems ourselves. When we create elaborate ways to overcome the sorrow, everything from escaping through drinking more alcohol to deny our dreams, we still don’t find hope we need. We only get another kick in the teeth and another rip in our frame because our methods begin with a trust misplaced in some hopeless addiction that is even weaker and more limited than we are.
The Lord watches our ineffective human attempts to reconcile the pain just like we do, knowing the outcome before we even start. But while we bring only discouragement and imperfect understanding to the sorrow of our hearts, the Lord offers His unique treatment that hinges only on one perfect breath that dares to hope. The Psalmist says, “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Anything that makes us look for hope in a place other than God’s grace will fail. Anything that says it’s more powerful than God will fail. Anything that replaces the sorrow with more of the same will fail. We need hope to overcome the pain that sorrow brings, and hope in God is the only kind that will work.
- By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea