When Hope Seems Lost (part 2 of 2)

Published February 23rd, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on When Hope Seems Lost (part 2 of 2)

Way to Emmaus

“But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” – Luke‬ ‭24:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In last week’s article (part 1 of 2), we eavesdropped on an intimate conversation between Jesus and two of his disciples as they attempted to make meaning of the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion. As with these two men, we learned that Jesus has great empathy for us in the midst of our difficult-to-understand circumstances, though from our human vantage point we may not fully appreciate or understand his ways and his timing.

So, what else do we observe in this story?

“He was a prophet… and they crucified him.” Notice these two disciples had a very good understanding of the data about Jesus’ life as well as their own (vv. 19-20). But while they fully understood the facts, what they didn’t yet understand was their meaning. Humans have a deep yearning to make meaning from our life circumstances, especially the painful ones. To quote John Eldridge in Sacred Romance, we weren’t created to live in a small story but inside a much larger one. It’s evident in the way people tirelessly volunteer for missions and ministry, just as much as the way people scream their heads off at a sporting event. No matter our background, we are desperate to know our lives matter.

“But we had hoped.” This gets to the crux of the matter, doesn’t it? It’s our dashed expectations – what we think would have been best from a human perspective – that creates much of the pain in our lives (v. 21). Grief can sometimes be measured as the distance between what actually happens and what our limited human perspective expected to happen. That’s exactly what these men were sharing on their walk together. And now, prompted by his empathy, is exactly what they share with Jesus. 

He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Jesus then sets about telling the same story of suffering and crucifixion, using the exact same data points, but this time from the Divine perspective (v. 27). In essence, Jesus supplies corrective lenses to their eyes so they can see the data of their circumstances more clearly through the truth of Scripture.

“We’re not our hearts burning?” When we hear the truth, no matter how difficult it may be to receive, there’s something inside the true believer that resonates (v. 32). Sometimes it stirs quietly and other times it burns with passion. But deep down, we can know when the Holy Spirit is speaking when we humbly submit to his instruction through the Word and resist filtering the truth through our own distorted frame.

Are we willing to come empty-handed, allowing Jesus to give us his corrective lenses through which to see and understand rightly? Are we willing to accept there’s a Divine story and that our lives will have meaning and be more at rest when we align ourselves within his much larger Story rather than trying to press Jesus into our smaller ones?

In the end, embracing the Divine perspective results in our having a renewed sense of hope (vv. 33-35).

Where are you discouraged? What dashed hopes are you carrying today? What doesn’t make sense about your life right now? Whether it’s a recent circumstance or one that’s been dragging on for years, where are you in desperate need for Divine perspective? It’s possible we don’t yet see clearly because we have a limited human perspective on things. Also possible is that God might be limiting our current understanding, leveraging the tension for some greater purpose in our lives “down the road”. While we can’t manipulate him to reveal his perspective on our time table, we can certainly ask him to do so in humble surrender to his greater purposes.

As we continue walking down our road to Emmaus, let’s watch for how the Lord might join alongside us in sometimes unexpected ways. I find it intriguing that Jesus didn’t send them in a different direction but simply laid down a right understanding of Scripture to help them see their circumstances more clearly. Of course, their lives were radically changed as a result. That’s the way it works. We can’t possibly remain the same when God’s Word is allowed to speak deeply into our lives. 

So hold on, search the Scriptures and listen for the Holy Spirit to speak into your soul. In the meantime, just keep walking.

Press on, mi amigo / Press on, mon ami / Walk on in the face of the mystery

Though the night hides the light through the darkness till dawn / Tie your shoes, my dear friend, and press on

– Billy Sprague, Press On