Hope in the Wilderness

by Melissa Duncan on August 04, 2020

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

                                                                        —Micah 7:7-8

It’s funny to be writing about hope this week. At this moment I don’t feel connected to hope. I’ve been sitting at home for several days, waiting on test results, frustrated at my inability to go places and unsure what this week will hold let alone August and the months to come. I’m drained by our national conversation, where each side demands the other give in completely rather than seeks progress and unity in humility. There are dishes in my sink, and I’ve got a flat tire—the 3rd one this summer.

Hope to me right now is a distant and theoretical concept. And yet, the more I think about it, isn’t this exactly where hope is born?

True hope comes from the wilderness place. In times of thriving, we don’t have much hope because we just don’t need it. Possible liberators and other gods crowd our vision so completely we needn’t place our faith anywhere else.

Yet the hope that will never fail us is born from the God who shows up in the wilderness. It’s a subversive, baffling hope; the same hope Moses’ mother had when she steeled herself and tenderly placed her baby in a basket floating down the Nile. She knew the tiny vessel wouldn’t survive the jaws of a hungry crocodile. It’s the hope Hagar showed when she held her head high and returned from the desert to the care of her oppressors, armed with a blessing from El Roi. The hope of Esther, a scared Jewish girl playing a queen when she broke the law and approached the king on behalf of her people. And the very same hope that had Paul and Silas inexplicably singing for joy in a jail cell.

I don’t believe any of those people could have told you how their story would turn out. From a watery grave to Prince of Egypt and champion of the Hebrews. Abused slave to mother of a nation. Insignificant girl dragged into a beauty pageant standing up to her enemies and saving her people. Chains dropped to the floor and prison doors flung open.

Ours is not a faith that always makes sense, nor a journey we can often anticipate. Yet God is always faithful, disrupts corruption, and meets the lowly and despairing.

Desperate. Slave. Trophy wife. Prisoner. Whatever your name, whether there is no conceivable way out or the conclusion is foregone, our hope is in a God who saves, who brings water to the desert, makes queens out of nobodies, and opens the prison doors.

Questions for reflection and discussion: Look up Moses’ mother, Hagar, Queen Esther, or Paul and Silas (in Acts 16) and read their stories. How did God show up?

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