Someone just gave me a book entitled, Mystical Hope. In it the author seeks to distinguish between hope based on outcomes such as changed circumstances and a hope that resides in our very souls quite apart from circumstances. I found it quite moving.
“In our usual way of looking at things, hope is tied to outcome. We would normally think of it as an optimistic feeling-or at least a willingness to go on-because we sense that things will get better in the future.” Bourgeault goes on to list the many ways we “hope” in the sense that we hope for something external to us to happen – get a job, get a clean bill of health, etc. She affirms that the Bible has many examples of this kind of hope, but there is imbedded in Scripture another kind of hope that is not based on circumstances but on the reality of God bubbling up within us. She says, “But where does that leave us in our own lives when the biopsy comes back malignant, when despite our fervent prayers healing does not occur, when there is no miraculous intervention? Not only is the situation still completely hopeless; even worse (if that’s possible), it now seems that God has abandoned us-our religion has let us down.
“Without diving yet into the middle of this anguishing conundrum, I simply want to observe that there is another kind of hope also represented in the Bible that is a complete reversal of our usual way of looking at things. Beneath the “upbeat” kind of hope that parts the sea and pulls rabbits out of hats, this other hope weaves its way as a quiet, even ironic counterpoint.
“We see, it, for example, toward the end of the book of Habakkuk when, at the conclusion of a long litany of doom, the prophet suddenly exclaims-out of nowhere, it seems:
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
“Now here is quite a reversal! The outcome sounds about as bad as it can get: no crops, no flocks, no food-a likely sentence of starvation in this desert land. And yet Habakkuk’s response is joy and strength. Not only does he vow to keep going, his survival does not even sound like a dreary, stoic sort of endurance. Instead, the prophet speaks from a lightness that seems to come flooding in upon him despite all the hopelessness of his situation. There is a spring to his step-“like the feet of a deer”-and his path leads upward, toward the heights…”
Bourgeault goes on for the rest of the book to offer this deeper hope, not as an easy out, but as a reality that is part of the essence of God in us.
Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope, p 3-7