Saturday, November 04, 2017

Hope not Despair for the Battles of Life

Despair really is the abandonment of hope. In my book Braving the Storm I write about the German Underground Hospital built in Guernsey during World War 2. It was, in its day, the largest man-made underground structure in Europe, but today is a ruin only barely available to tourists who want to recall the Occupation. It is dark, smelly and eerie, with definite ghoulish factors to give goosebumps even to people who enjoy Halloween. It came into its own during the period after D-Day in June 1944, when these islands were cut off from the nearby continent and wounded soldiers from the front were shipped here for surgery and care. Almost immediately it was found to be useless as a place of renewal and healing. This was largely because of its dark underground design, and the total absence of natural light and warmth. They might just as well have written over the entrance "abandon hope all ye who enter here"!

Healing really does need hope, and the Bible says that "hope deferred makes the heart sick". The temptation to despair is something familiar to those of us who have fought long battles with chronic ill health. There surely must be similar pressure to despair in marital conflict, redundancy, or abuse. Once we dig our own bunker to hide in and determine to abandon hope we are in danger of the very cynicism and bitterness of soul that has destroyed people much more clever than we are. Despair poisons our emotions and robs us of peace. It trickles down into our spirits like the lime-stained seepage that mars the walls of the Underground Hospital. Ultimately it dethrones God in our hearts and is a form of what I also call in my books "sweet rebellion". This is usually present in the lives of people who have despaired of their situation, future or church, but are still running on fumes and acting like good, sweet Christians. Only a change of heart will heal. Only a change of language and attitude will bring the longed-for hope. The Bible calls that kind of thing repentance.

When the Jewish King David was going through a particularly wounding patch in his often troubled life, he refused to dig a bunker and despair. He wrote the immortal words of Psalm 42 - "Why are you so downcast, O my soul? why are you so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God." (v5) If you are reading this because you are tempted to dig a hole and despair I just want to urge you to think again. While there is a God in heaven there will be hope on Earth available to all who come humbly and desperate to Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. His Spirit and his words of hope can lift us up from a horrible pit even worse than the Nazis left in Guernsey.