Loss is the breeding ground of hope. To celebrate the hope of Isaiah 9 one must understand the utter disappointment of the status of God’s people. The kingdom of Israel was in shambles. Doom, destruction, and exile was the order of the day for God’s chosen. David’s kingdom is pictured like a tree that brings life to the world. Now all that was left standing was a stump. Something that was glorious was now gone. Before jumping to the “shoot”, we must contemplate the “stump”. After all, the stump takes up most of the picture. This painting evokes sadness in me that something great has been cut down.
I went through a bout of depression this summer. I called my counselor brother and spoke to him about it. He asked my if I was depressed or grieving? I asked him what the difference was. He said, “the difference is hope.” With this explanation I quickly realized that I was grieving. I clearly have hope in my life, but the biggest part of the picture for me at that moment was loss. Leaving a church that I led, nurtured and cared about for most of my adult life has made this summer rather sad for me. It’s easy to jump too quickly to the hope, but what makes hope so hopeful is the suffocating sting of loss.
Israel looks like nothing more than a fallen stump. Mushrooms are growing around the roots as if to suggest the stump is quickly on its way to becoming mulch. One of my favorite childhood stories was “Pandora’s Box”. If you remember, she was told not to open the box. In the recorded telling of the story I listened to as a child, the song went, “Don’t open the box, don’t open the box, whatever you do, don’t open the box.” Of course she opens the box and out comes all kinds of evil that fills the world from inside that box. But just when it seems the world is doomed, one more thing comes out of the box-hope. Hope is the last and best thing out of the box when it seems our lives have hit a dead-end.
Of course we know that Jesus is the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” that Isaiah refers to. In the middle of gloom he announces that the best day is yet to come. As summer has turned to Fall, the hope within me is growing. I would say that most of the heaviness has lifted as the hope in my heart is growing as more and more I am able to see that God’s plans for my life are coming to pass. I sense hope growing at Christ Community Church and at Bethesda Christian Fellowship where I serve.
The ways of God are mystical and sometimes hard to understand, but we know for certain that hope is the last chapter of the Bible and realized hope is the future of all of His people. My prayer for you today is that if you are contemplating a “stump” in your life of something great that seems to be gone, take a second look and pay attention to that ever so small shoot of green springing from the deadness. Hope is the final word!