On May 22, as I drove home from work, my regular country radio broadcast was interrupted by some breaking news. As most of you probably heard on that day, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. As the details of the tragedy continued to unfold, I think it’s safe to say that the world as a whole could be described in one word: heartbroken. Twenty-two victims lost their lives that day, many of whom were children. Now, the purpose of this post is not to recount tragic facts, but as I drove home that day I was overwhelmed with a feeling I cannot quite put my finger on. I think if I had to describe it, I would say I was heartbroken yet hopeful. As the contradictory feelings flooded my heart, it struck me that the two sentiments, bottled up together, come only from the Lord.
This is not going to be a long theological argument for the coexistence of hope and heartbreak. In fact, it is not going to be long at all. Since that day, I’ve been meditating on the hope that comes from the Lord and it continues to blow my mind. I think if I had to choose a word to describe our human nature, it would be “fickle.” If you ask me, it sums up most people pretty concisely. We are inconsistent in our relationships, our interests, our emotions, and just about everything else. Fortunately, God is unchanging. His steadfastness is the primary basis for the unwavering hope He provides. However, He never promises that life will be all sunshine and rainbows. Life is tough. Since the Manchester attacks, there have been stabbings, shootings, natural disasters, and more. Life does not get easier. We do not get to hole ourselves up to avoid potential disaster. In fact, we as Christians are called to pray for the Lord to soften our hearts. Break my heart for what breaks Yours. It’s a sentiment that used to make me slightly uncomfortable. “What if I don’t want to feel the heartbreak that comes along with that prayer?” But there’s hope. “What if I can’t handle the pain associated with the tumult of this world?” But there’s hope. “What if I actually feel something I don’t want to feel?” But there’s hope.
You see, the Lord wants our hearts to break for the people in this world. How are we ever going to do His work if we don’t ache for His people? But I also understand the other side of that… “How can anybody do His work when weighed down by so much pain?” The answer? There’s hope. At the end of the day, hope outweighs the pain. Hope outweighs the grief. Hope outweighs the fear. So, when tragedy strikes and nobody knows the right words to say, at least we have hope. Ezekiel 36:26 tells us, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” The Lord softens our hearts for a reason. God allows us to feel pain for a purpose; for His purpose. If we ignore the Holy Spirit speaking to us, our hearts will harden. We might overlook God’s purpose because we do not want to feel the ache. Jesus was tortured and killed on a cross because he knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God’s purpose and plan were greater than His pain. None of us will ever have to experience the pain that Jesus endured. I don’t mean physical pain; I mean the weight of the world’s sin upon His shoulders. But still, he had hope because He knew that God was greater.
I am sorry if I am not outlining this paradox clearly. It’s rocked my world these past few weeks and I pray that, as Christians, we ask the Lord to break our hearts for what breaks His. It is a gift that the Lord allows us to feel heartbreak and hope in harmony with one another. At the end of the day, when the pain is heavy, we can always hope in the Lord. I would try to summarize it, but Paul does a better job of that in Romans 5:2-5, so I’ll leave it to him. “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
At the end of the day, hope outweighs the pain. Hope outweighs the grief. Hope outweighs the fear.