Getting Your Hopes Up
Elisha said, “At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son.” She replied, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant.” – 2 Kings 4:16 (NRSV)
A doctor once told my wife and me, “You’ll know you’re ready when you can hope again.”
It struck me as an un-doctor-like thing to say, using hope as a diagnostic tool like chest pain or difficulty speaking. But since then, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to find the wisdom in it.
I know the tender place that makes the Shunamite woman in this story protest when Elisha promises her the thing she most wants. That desire so mixed with heartache she doesn’t dare mention it even when the prophet asks what he can do for her.
She’s not ready.
I know that silent place of waiting, refusing to even think the name of the thing. Because what you don’t hope for can’t hurt you.
I don’t know how it returns. The doctor didn’t say.
I only know enough to diagnose myself. When I feel that pain in my chest. When the words of my prayer catch in my throat. I am not ready.
So I wait. (Or I don’t, and I burn out. Then I wait.)
And it does come. So far, at least, it always has.
Not the thing I most desire. Sometimes I get that and sometimes I don’t. It arrives when I am not at all ready. Or it fails to appear, though I am prepared for it with all my heart.
But hope comes. Slowly, like any other healing. Weakened. In need of rehabilitation, maybe, but it comes. God brings it. And then I know.
Great Physician, I am waiting.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.