I’ve met a few Christians who, when faced with a trying situation, advocate acceptance. On the outside, that doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. It’s more pleasant than the seeming alternative, the gnashing of teeth and twisting of hands that can come when we meet a difficult obstacle. In a scenario in which we have no control, letting go of our script of how the story should go could lead to peace. But a Christian, it seems to me, should carry a countenance more hopeful than acceptance; a Christian should expect the good.
That doesn’t mean we can declare what form or shape that good might take. Rather, we can believe that God is working in the details of our lives, writing a better story, and making good out of it. Are we to believe the God who said He knows how to give good gifts to His children? Who claims that everyone who asks, seeks, and knocks will receive? Do we trust in a supernatural God whose ways are above our ways? Who can do literally anything, change water to wine, give sight to the blind, bring the dead to life? Do we? Sometimes I fear we put God in a much smaller box than He deserves. Actually, any box would be too small, and it’s not in our power to ‘put’ Him anywhere. As the Narnians said about Aslan, He’s not a tame lion, but He is good.
One person I spoke with recently met some bad news with the slow, sad, shaking of his head. When I said that God might have a tremendous blessing hidden in this twist of the road, something we could not have yet contemplated, he continued shaking his head and sadly smiled, saying, “Yes, I suppose you’d have to believe that.” It stuck with me. His response had no hope, no window through which the light could come in. And, yes, I do have to believe in the great potential for blessing in a twisted road, and it’s not because of mental or spiritual gymnastics, and it’s not to get through the night, but it’s because this is how our living, good, unfathomably big God works. In the twists in the road, in our trouble, in our brokenness, He brings the light as He makes all things new, doing things we could never dream, bringing growth from watered seeds. And that, as we walk on this battered planet with so much to worry over, is the reason for our joy. It’s Jesus. Bigger than us and our problems, willing to help us, to heal us, and make us better able to serve our brothers and sisters. Just like a savior would.
As a wise friend recently said,
Acceptance without hope is resignation.
Letting go with expectation is faith.
On this Gaudete Sunday, I’m choosing hope and joy, trusting in God to do surprising, incredible things. He was God who chose to become a helpless baby in a hidden corner of the planet who grew up to change the very history of the world and every human heart.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel