Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. - Psalm 42:11
We’re all susceptible to the feelings of despondency expressed in that prayer, especially in this season of separation. That’s true even for people who’ve been blessed with health, wealth and a cheerful disposition.
It helps, when you’re “disturbed within,” to count your blessings and think happy thoughts. It’s therapeutic to remember that it always seems darkest before the dawn. But those strategies for coping, over time, will prove ineffective if they’re grounded in the things of this world. The greatest blessings are those that come from above and that can’t be taken away from us: new life in Christ – the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit – the promise of heaven. Such blessings are known only to those who hope in God.
We sometimes use the words hope and faith interchangeably. In some contexts it makes sense to do that, but faith and hope are not identical. Thomas Aquinas explains the difference in one pithy sentence: “Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.”
To put it in concrete terms: faith has to do with believing the Lord is still with us when we’re
downsized out of a job or we read about the relentless spread of the corona virus. Hope has to do with believing the Lord will eventually bring something good from all the chaos.
God has shown us again and again that he can be trusted, but he has also shown us that he can be a severe teacher. He has this exasperating way of disappearing just at the moment we need him most. It’s in a time just like the one we’re passing through – a time of pandemic and faltering faith – a time when we search and search for God but he’s nowhere to be seen – that hope becomes essential. Hope tells us to stop fixating the present trouble. It compels us to think instead about the victory that God promises for all who love him, the victory that has already been secured for us through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.