I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10
One woman’s nightmare is another woman’s dream. It’s all relative. A divorced woman lives a happily married woman’s nightmare. Yet that same divorced woman, if she has a home, lives a homeless woman’s dream. Life can be very tough, but it could always be worse. The trick is to compare down – without being condescending.
In Jesus’ day, the Jews hoped for a conquering Messiah. He would crush the tyranny of Rome. And it was tyranny. Taxes were financially devastating. Marching Roman soldiers thought nothing of trampling Jewish children beneath their feet. Punishment for resisting Rome’s cruel oppression was extremely harsh, public crucifixion being common. Everyone longed for retribution on a personal level. Their Messiah would surely be the answer.
But Jesus had a very different strategy, and a far bigger deliverance than mere political conquering. No one expected the Messiah to look like Jesus. “Who’d have ever thought,” writes Michael Card, songwriter, “he’d be so meek and humble?” (We know, of course, that “meek” denotes strength under control.)
How blind those people were, we think – and then we look to God to wave the same anticipated wand over our lives. We don’t realize that fixing our problems is not what the Kingdom of God is all about.
Jesus comes into our lives to save us from sin, judgment, and despair. That goal can present a very different path from the one we hope for. Often, the only practical difference between having a relationship with Christ and not knowing him is hope. If we let go of Jesus, we still have all our problems, but we refuse the wisdom, comfort, and direction he offers. We refuse hope.
Having given us complete forgiveness and justification, God wants our trials to demonstrate his transforming power, as they forge our love relationship with him. He uses them to deepen our faith and love, so that we become “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4) As the hope of Christ permeates our suffering, at times we will share life-giving words. We’ll testify not from wishful thinking or delusional faith, but from actual experience.
That’s the path of hope. It may be paved with suffering, but it leads away from despair, to “abundant life.”