It’s almost March. The sun is shining. The temperature is above freezing. The snow is melting. The days are getting longer. I’ve never been a hardcore winter-hater like my lovely wife, but 2020-2021 may have officially converted me. I’m already thinking about uncovering our patio furniture, breaking out my grill, and scoping out mulch. I recently bought a new lawnmower (the employee at Lowe’s clearly thought I was nuts as he lowered it off the top shelf; they weren’t even on display yet). He said I was the first of the year!
The way I see it, the change in weather has been God’s response to my regular, faithful, and confident words. I’ve singlehandedly spoken spring into existence! (OK, I’m kidding about that last part; my desperation for warmer weather hasn’t driven me to heresy – yet.)
Combining spring’s arrival with drastically lower numbers of COVID infections and deaths, there finally seems to be some visible light at the end of the tunnel of the last twelve months. While we don’t want to pop the champagne quite yet, for the first time in a long time, there’s justification for feeling cautiously optimistic. Many of us are hopeful for spring sports, summer vacations, and gathering with unmasked family and friends without fear of being judged or anxiety about getting sick. For the first time in a long time, those hopes aren’t totally unreasonable!
However, I’ve also been trying to remind myself that ultimately, my hope is not in the changing seasons or the flipping of the calendar. My hope is not in mayors or governors lifting restrictions or loosening up precautions. My hope is not in new treatments, or even much-touted vaccines (though personally, I’m confident that the ones currently being rolled out are legitimate and good gifts from God).
Rather, my hope is in God himself.
Even if spring never came, and even if COVID never went away, I would still have reason for hope. Why? Because God is God. My eternal hope – the eternal hope of any believer in Jesus – is not thwarted by changing, unpredictable, and often less-than-ideal circumstances. Our hope is in the unchanging God.
That’s part of what makes Psalm 137 so powerful. Though it is considered one of the darkest passages in all of Scripture (read VS. 9 to see why), there is also hope in it.
As the recently-exiled Israelites toil away under Babylonian oppression – as they sing heartbreaking words reflecting how much they miss their home, at their enemies’ mocking request – they still have hope (even if it’s subtle). Their hope is seen in VS. 5 and 6:
“If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”
We see more hope snuck into VS. 7: “Remember, O LORD”. The fact that the Israelites ask God to remember anything shows they haven’t totally forgotten their hope in Him.
God’s suffering people refused to forget their home, their customs, their Temple – their very identity as God’s people – even when it all seemed far, far away. Why? Because somewhere, deep down in their hearts, minds, and guts – even as their circumstances said otherwise – they knew that God was still God. And as long as they had Him, they had hope.
While a brutally cold month of February in the middle of a once-in-a-generation pandemic is nothing to sneeze at, our current predicament probably hasn’t been as traumatizing for most of us as the Babylonian exile was to the Israelites of Psalm 137. However, surely all of us have had moments, days, and even full seasons over the past twelve months when we felt rather hopeless.
But we have reason for hope now, right? Spring is coming! The worst days of the pandemic MAY be STARTING to wind down! Well, to be honest – as good as those two developments are – neither of them is the true source of our hope.
The truth is, our reason for hope as believers in Jesus hasn’t changed at all over the past year. God has still been sovereign and good this entire time, and always will be.
The weather may have been awful at times. The pandemic really has done massive physical, emotional, mental, and economic damage. But none of that has changed the fact that Jesus has lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and risen from the grave. In other words, God is still – always has been, and always will be – God. He’s been God through everything we’ve encountered lately, and will be God with whatever unknown struggle, hardship, or suffering may be coming around the bend.
And as long as that is true, we still have hope; we always have, and always will.