"Through [Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:2-6)
I’m expecting a child—a son. He’s not here yet, so, in my head, he’s bright and spotless. My visions are filled with cuddling, comfort, and joy. He falls asleep in my arms. He sits beside me, jaw agape, as he discovers new worlds in literature or music or athletics. He lies next to me in the grass, red-faced from chasing me all afternoon. I follow his curious mind into new hobbies and interests. I love him so much.
I haven’t spoken to my best friend in years. He wrestles with crippling mental illness. I miss him desperately and want so deeply to love him and be with him. On a near-daily basis I still thrash through the emotional baggage of letting go of my relationship with him. The peaks are ephemeral and stitched together with memories and nostalgia. The troughs are deep and dark and scary. I rarely let my mind linger. I love him so much.
What a mess we’re in, all of us, to be caught between tomorrow’s mysterious, not-yet joy and today’s tangible desperation.
I imagine that our Lord felt the same way as He approached Jerusalem. Even as the people celebrated his arrival and ushered Jesus in with open arms, He surely knew the incredible desertion and pain in the days to come. He would be betrayed by those closest to Him, unjustly punished, and suffer an excruciating death. At the same time, as He rode on that donkey, He also knew that, through His death and resurrection, He would secure the ultimate victory for the people He loves.
The reality is that, despite my optimistic imagination about the future and my sepia-toned memories of the past, I can’t have any confidence in my kid’s perfection or in my friend’s ability to find peace. But I can have confidence knowing that my Christ conquered death to redeem my sinful heart. I can have confidence knowing that, in spite of the cyclical, already-but-not-yet nature of our sinful world, I have hope because of my faith in Jesus and the work that He has done for me.
(Written by Stefan Kling)