What Cannot Be Seen
(pictured is the art installation ‘Hope’ located in downtown Columbia)
Romans 12: 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
2nd Corinthians 4: 17-18
For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for
what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
What Cannot Be Seen
As we enter a new year, it is natural to have thoughts about the future and, specifically, what this new year will bring. We think about what events will take place in the world and in our individual lives during 2021. Amid these thoughts, there is the nearly universal sentiment expressed this way: “I hope this year will be better than last year.”
Especially this year, we feel that way. We hope that 2021 will bring abatement of the virus, and an opportunity to return to more normal lives. We hope for a return to health, and with it an end to the anxiety, isolation, and abandonment that many have felt during the time of COVID. We hope for good health and for meaningful lives for our families and for the citizens of the world. We hope for a reduction and even an end to bigotry, hatred, and violence.
We also have a more specific, faith-based hope, as one of the gifts that God gives us. As believers in the Creator God and as followers of Jesus, the nature of our hope is different. The nature of our hope is not based in the direction of the world or the events in our lives. It is more specifically defined in our belief in God and God’s promises. The nature of our hope leads us to “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer.”
We rejoice because we see that which is bigger than the news of the day. Through trust in God, we rejoice because we see beyond the circumstances and events of a single point in time, a single year, or a particular set if events. We look beyond what we see and, as Paul proclaims, look at “what cannot be seen.” We look beyond the temporary, that which is visible only with our eyes, and we see the eternal. We know the workings of God in the world. We see the reality of God and of God’s promises.
Through trust in God, we rejoice in hope, even though the current circumstances of life may work to induce suffering. We rejoice in hope because through God we see the suffering of today as “a slight momentary affliction preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.”
Also, our faith-based hope is active. It is not a passive, sitting back and waiting kind of hope. Through our hope in God’s future for us, we work to change the world now. We work, as the mission of our church proclaims, to make disciples of Jesus Christ “for the transformation of the world.”
C.S. Lewis said: “Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”
For us, our hope is active because God is active in the world. We live in active hope now and trust in God’s future for us.
An old-favorite hymn that speaks to this is “My Hope is Built.” The lyrics say:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.
We trust in God’s promises that transcend the circumstances of the present. We look beyond what is seen and at what cannot be seen, because it is eternal, and we find our hope in God. Thanks be to God. Amen.