“But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence; the least touch of truth rubs it off, and then we see what a hollow-cheeked harlot we have got hold of.”
I have often wondered how the atheist navigates the pains and losses of life without a spiritual center – without God or substantial hope in something greater than himself. I believe that the only conclusion a person can come to without God is arrived at by Lord Byron: “The least touch of truth rubs it off”. This must be true of life without God.
The book of Job paints such a picture.
Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh? Can reeds thrive without water?
While still growing and uncut, they wither more quickly than grass. Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What he trusts in is fragile;
what he relies on is a spider’s web. He leans on his web, but it gives way; he clings to it,
but it does not hold.
Even we who follow Christ can live lives of quiet hopelessness and like Byron, see hope like the mere “paint on existence”, and we can do so without ever saying the words.
I wonder if this disillusionment occurred because of the misguided promises of bliss and prosperity made by the Church the past 50 years. The same rubric that helped usher in post- modernism also left many Christians holding their shattered pumpkin dreams. We were taught.
“Just pray more. Surrender more. Obey more or confess more positive words and you will have it all”. And not much really changed. This created a “knee jerk” reaction against any kind of future promise of joy or hope in this post-modern world.
Larry Crabb, in his book “Inside Out”, talks about “groaning” – the experience Christians often endure when navigating the aches of the soul life deals to them. We have been taught to suppress these dark feelings and gloss them over with stained-glass words. Feeling pain however is where healing begins.
“The experience of groaning however is precisely what modern Christianity so often tries to help us escape”
Whether it’s an atheist preaching hopelessness or a believer’s hopes dashed on the rocks, there is a place for realistic hope.
The ground of hope begins by allowing ourselves to feel the negative emotions (no matter how intense), and in that instant, look to God – understanding that our present reality may not change immediately, but inviting God into the pain is the beginning of real hope.