A year ago I was in the same city under very different circumstances.
My first grandson had been born at just over 28 weeks because his mama developed HELLP syndrome and was in mortal danger. Both he and she were in the hospital while we held our collective breath, begging for them to be OK.
We were filled with quiet but uneasy joy knowing as we do how death can come to steal it away.
This Sunday, family and friends gathered to watch this little guy grab his first birthday cake with gusto and smear his mama and daddy with blue icing.
You’d never know he got such a tentative start in life just by looking at him.
Grateful is too small a word for how we feel.
Last week was a roller coaster.
My first grandchild-a boy-was born prematurely on Saturday after several days of heart stopping, breath robbing drama as his mama went back and forth to the hospital three times in as many days.
My son, his father, is deployed overseas and paddling as fast as he can to get home.
I thought I understood just how heavy it was the moment the deputy’s words sank deep inside and crushed my heart.
But I didn’t know the half of it.
You really can’t know how large a person’s absence is until you’ve explored the edges of the world without him or her.
When folks started coming up our long and winding drive, even though I knew full well he would not be among them, my eyes strained to see inside every car. When his friends gathered in our front yard, I couldn’t help looking through the picture window trying to make out his face among the crowd. When we walked into his now-empty apartment I thought surely he was in his bedroom, around the corner, just out out of sight.
But he was nowhere to be found. And the hole in my heart where he should be but wasn’t got bigger.
Those were just the early days.
In the weeks, months and years to follow I found everywhere I set my foot that followed a path we’d walked together, I missed him. When the next movie in a series was released, he wasn’t there to watch it with me. Family gatherings, holidays, birthdays, graduations all went on without him and my heart counted his absence.
From sunrise to sunset my heart marks all the Dominic-sized spaces in a day.
At night, dark stillness invites me to recite them.
But after more than five years, most people no longer see any tale-tell sign of this mama’s heart longing desperately for one more minute, one more hug, one more quick exchange of “I love you!”
I have grown stronger and better able to carry this load of missing.
Daily exercise will do that.
And it IS a daily exercise-lifting the missing up on my shoulders or carrying it in a basket on my head like women hauling water from a well far away has taught me to bear it well.
I still miss him.
I will always miss him.
Greater strength means I can shift the missing to make room for living. I can carry that weight and still find room to carry joy.
I hope it rains. I hope I get the job. I hope it’s a boy!
Most of the time we could exchange “wish” for “hope” because we have no power to make the things we hope for come true.
So when we read “hope” in this passage, it doesn’t necessarily evoke the sure promise Peter is trying to convey in his letter to suffering Christians of the first century.
It would be cold comfort to families as they were forced at sword point to walk off cliffs or thrust into the arena with lions if Peter’s hope was just a wish.
But it’s not.
Peter opens his letter with a bold declaration based on his eye-witness testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And His living Presence means that THIS hope is a promise.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:3-9 NIV
These are some of my favorite verses in the epistles.
Peter packs so much in so few words: I have an inheritance, I have a future and I have joy.
My inheritance in Christ is safe, secure and eternal.
There is no law of diminishing returns in Heaven. Unlike that dress I bought that seemed so wonderful a week ago, I won’t ever get tired of reciting and reviewing all Jesus purchased for me with His blood.
Do you ever fear you might lose your faith?
Peter reminds us we are shielded by God in Christ until the full glory of our salvation is revealed at the Last Day. Jesus Himself said that those the Father gives Him cannot be snatched from His hand.
Doubt is not denial.
If you have put your trust in the finished work of Jesus then you are saved.
Trials will come. But they are not the last word.
When we lean on Christ and trust Him to walk with us through them, take the heat and refuse to melt, then we are refined and His glory is purer, clearer and more easily seen in our lives.
And in the midst of trials I have joy because my hope in the living hope of our resurrected Savior sustains me.
Consider Paul’s words: ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Corinthians 6:10). In the ugliness of intensified grief, the Christian is supernaturally enabled to rejoice.
The hallelujahs of joy reverberate on broken heartstrings. My sorrow touches every part of my life, yet I sorrow not as those who have no hope.
My rejoicing is not that of happy feelings; it is triumph in trial and confidence in a supreme God. The true joy of the Lord is divine enablement, not effervescent emotions
James Means, A Tearful Celebration
Sometimes it seems like it’s hardly worth it. Our circle is small and our testimony just a whisper. But we won’t know the full story of how our struggle glorifies Him until all things are revealed.
Our hope is a Living Hope.
It’s no pie-in-the-sky fairy tale.
Your story matters.
It’s being written to be shared as a testimony to God’s goodness, His faithful love and His enabling grace.
You’ll be glad you did.
Have you ever thought about the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and the promise that we will also be raised? How do Peter’s words about our “living hope” impact your faith?
Peter denied Christ and most certainly didn’t ever expect to have a second chance to make that right. Do you feel like you’ve done or said or thought something that puts you outside the love and grace of God?
In the midst of a trial are you aware that it’s a refining experience? Do you care?
Does the promise that our steadfast endurance will be revealed in the last day as a testimony to God’s glory and grace encourage you? Why or why not?
What practical steps do you take to hold onto hope?
Lord, sometimes I feel hopeless. I forget that the resurrection proves You have conquered death and the grave. I forget I have a Living Hope and that hope is the person of Jesus Christ.
Trials come and the heat is so intense. I want to shrink away, to hide, to find some safe corner where pain and sorrow won’t find me. But that’s not the world we live in. Whether I’m persecuted for my faith or just the target of someone else’s sinful actions or words, it hurts!
Give me the strength to endure regardless of how intense the struggle.
I want to finish strong. I want to be a testimony for Your glory and to Your grace. Thank You for providing every needful thing.
Speak courage to my spirit, breathe life into my faith.
Thank You that I can rest assured that the hope I place in You is not just a fanciful wish but a sure thing.