HOPE(07): a sense of absence
We have five wonderful grandchildren—all boys. Consequently, our family is very familiar with blues and greens and plaids. Summers have been filled with slingshots and lizards, skinned knees and boy-smells. Life has been good. But something is about to change. This summer we are looking forward to the arrival of our first granddaughter!
It began with a private announcement of the good news in a quiet restaurant. Even without any visible evidence, the excitement of the news produced a loud “Woohoo!” from my wife. As time has progressed, the anticipation has built up and finds its way into much of our conversation. There are still a few months of waiting ahead of us, but we are already making room in our lives for someone who has not yet arrived.
I have noticed that the apostle Paul used the analogy of a pregnant mother when writing to the believers in Rome. He described all of creation in pregnant anticipation—the hope of our redemption. He concluded his thoughts with this statement:
“In hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not really hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we eagerly wait for it.” Romans 8:24-5
Hope, by its very definition, begins with a sense of absence—an awareness of what is missing. Paul wrote that hope is a meaningless concept if we already have what we desire. It’s the absence that creates the longing.
There is something profoundly true about our sense of the absent. The Scriptures make it clear that life as we know it is not life as God intended it to be. God did not intend for life to be hollow and unfulfilled. He did not intend for us to occupy our lives with desperate attempts to stuff the emptiness with earthly packing material.
In hope we have been saved. Most of what God has done in and for us lies in the future. We have a taste of it now, but its reality is yet unseen. We anticipate a day when Jesus will be physically present, when he will set things right, when we will be revealed for who we are in Christ. This is the good news that has been announced. In hope, we long for its delivery.
It appears that hope can be measured by the emotion of my anticipation and the extent to which that emotion alters how I approach life and respond to its emptiness. Paul wrote that “with perseverance we eagerly wait.” This statement suggests an active determination toward what is presently absent—an intentional shifting of my emotional weight toward the future.
The news of a granddaughter has brought excitement. As the pregnancy continues, so does the anticipation. We eagerly await the arrival and all that comes with her presence in our family. But with this excitement comes an awareness of an even greater absence—the physical presence of my Savior-King and the full expression of what he accomplished on the Cross. And so, together with all the family of the redeemed, “with perseverance we eagerly wait” for its delivery.