Advent-ure Calendar Day 1: Hope – Psalm 42 – Why does my heart feel so bad?

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Welcome to my Advent-ure Calendar 2011!

As usual there will be a new post every day in Advent – like a new window on an Advent calendar taking us up to Christmas. Again I will be reflecting on a bible reading each day. This year we will look at four themes: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

So today is the first of the readings on Hope.

Hope is a weird thing. Many people don’t understand it and most don’t realise that the Christian concept of hope is quite different from most people’s idea of what it is. I remember at school being taught the story of Pandora’s Box: Pandora opens the box releasing all evil into the world, it is slammed shut just in time to save hope, hope is all that remains. Now in my nice Catholic school we were told that the moral of the story is that there’s ‘always hope’. This however, was my teacher putting a very Christian spin on Greek mythology. I later discovered at university that the Greek view of hope was quite different. Remember that the box contained all the world’s evils – hope included in that. To the ancient Greeks, hope was an evil thing, something that taunted you. I think many people see hope like that, especially when Christians talk about it: they see it as wishful thinking, “bully for you”.

Christian hope, however, is built around the fact of Christ’s resurrection, it’s built around what has already happened. Because Christ is risen from the dead, we can have complete confidence in God’s promises. It is this that is held in the balance in advent: we celebrate that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, that he is the fulfilment of God’s promises in the Old Testament and in that celebration we look forward with confidence and hope that Christ will come again.

If your life is going well, you don’t really think about or even need to hope. Hope is a gift of God to people who are living with hardship. Today’s reading is a passionate description of this. It’s one of the most raw and real of the psalms. The psalmist pours out his heart about his sadness and depression and just manages to cling on to his hope in God, this is the only thing that is keeping him going.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?” These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”

My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.

(Psalm 42:1-11 NIV)

This song by Moby, I think, expresses a similar sentiment to this psalm:

Remember that however you feel, there is indeed for us Christians, ‘always hope’.

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3 thoughts on “Advent-ure Calendar Day 1: Hope – Psalm 42 – Why does my heart feel so bad?

  1. Dan Schmidt

    Hope as ‘complete confidence in God’s promises’–I like your way of saying this. Hope pulls us forward toward the day when we see that all God said is true; in a way, we put faith (some, at least), in hope!

    Like

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