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I do not wish to douse anybody’s ball of sunshine, but when you walk in dark places, you learn that hope is a four letter word. Hope doesn’t put food on the table. Hope doesn’t pay the electric bill, it doesn’t put a roof over your head, and it sure doesn’t make your dreams come true.

Worse, hope can actually become an evil thing. Hope is why battered women stay in abusive relationships. They hope they can change him. They hope that the violence will stop. They hope he’ll go to counseling. When I worked at DV, every Friday, the day women liked to drop restraining orders and go back, we’d sigh and say,” hope has reared it’s ugly head once again.”  Men too, they stay way past the breaking point in bad marriages because they hope they can make it work. Hope is what keeps alcoholics drinking, they hope that this time they’ll get different results. Hope makes drug addicts lie to themselves, they hope they can quit anytime they want. Somebody wise once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Yep, that’s hope for you. The one evil that Pandora did not let out of the box….

I do not serve a God of hope, although there are dozens of verses in the bible that suggest He is just that. No doubt the error is on my end, however I do not serve a God of hope, I serve a God of action. God did not sit back and hope that humans figured out how to overcome sin on our own, God had a plan, a ransom that He paid for us. God is a God of paradoxes. Salvation, “hope” for mankind was purchased in suffering and despair, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” God is a God of surrendered hope, as in, “it is finished.”

That is the God I know, a God that came to me as a child in the ninth circuit of hell where there was no hope. To this day that is where I still find Him the easiest, in those who have hit bottom, in those who have lost hope. I love their gallows humor, the tinkle of their self depreciating laughter. God is a God of redemption, of mercy, of healing and kindness. God is a God who often finds us when we have cast aside all hope.

“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Today I’m upset with the church, with the “righteous,” more than the non believers. When you bind the truth about your neck or write it on the tablet of your heart, you have entered into a covenant, not a covenant of arrogance or self righteousness or petty pride, but a covenant of service. In America far too many churches have become churches for the beautiful people, the well off people. TV evangelists and mega churches preach false hope and self help sermons dripping with saccharine sweetness. Where I live, one of the loneliest places to be is sitting in one of our local churches. Loneliness I can do, despair I can do, it is that grieving of the Holy Spirit that I cannot bear.

In the Western world we are all about feeling good, about drawing happy faces on everything. We are also the people with the most mental disorders on the planet, the highest rates of depression and loneliness. One reason for this is that we have forgotten that you must walk through the pain to get to the fruits and the treasures on the other side. There are no shortcuts. Hope can only be found on the other side of despair.

I can swear to one thing, I’d rather be in the midst of despair with God at my side than hopeful without him. Blessed be His name, always.