Friday, April 11, 2008

Hope and disappointment

Yesterday I heard the story of a stillborn child.

While he was still unborn, still moving and growing inside of his mother, their whole family crowded into the ultrasound room to catch a glimpse of him. Of course, the 4-year-old was the most expressive about his joy. He anticipated his new little brother's arrival by picking out toys for him, squeezing his mom's belly to give him hugs, and "helping" to get things ready.

Months later, when the baby's motionless body was delivered, the boy who was no longer a big brother sobbed and - for weeks - played games where dolls died and were "buried" under the couch.

After you've watched such a small child experience such grief, what do you say to him the next time you're pregnant? What about everyone else? Do you announce the news as freely? Or do you hold on to it, doling it out slowly, cautiously, at the moment when absolutely necessary, like rations on a ship strayed off course?

I drove home thinking about how heartache - large or small - affects us. How the hurts which are so much a part of life make it hard to open our hearts again. I kept thinking of the proverb that starts out, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick..." But I couldn't remember the rest of it.

This morning I was trying to look it up when I came across this: "Hope does not disappoint us." How does hope not disappoint when it makes us so heartsick? I read what came before it.

Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

So that sounds to me like the end result of suffering can be more hope, not less. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. And it sounds like when we feel like we can't keep loving, God refills our hearts. Is that what you're seeing there too? Or am I crazy? (Um, you don't have to answer that.)

I can't believe I forgot about that whole paragraph because it comes right before these verses, which I love:
When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
So life is painful, but we are loved. Is it just me or does that simple, profound truth make opening your heart a little less scary?

P.S. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."

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Photos: 1) Microsoft stock photo. 2) By booleansplit. Creative Commons License. 3) By
E_B_A .

References: Proverbs 13:12; Romans 5:1-8 (NIV)

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