We sat in silent disbelief, neither of us knowing what to say.
When my husband’s job was eliminated without warning, the news landed like a tidal wave: completely unexpected and comprehensively devastating.
Then, as the wave receded, applications, interviews, and the thin hope that accompanies waiting seemed to set the agenda for our family’s unknown future.
Holding on to hope without any evidence of a happy ending may be one of the most challenging disciplines of the following life.
Holding On to the Bridge of Hope
As immature Christians, we want to believe that the test for cancer will always come back negative, our kids will always win the scholarships, and our career paths will persistently follow a predictable upward trajectory.
Eventually, the realities of life confirm the Apostle Peter’s warning that we actually will have “to struggle in various trials,” giving us the opportunity to grow into the knowledge that we have access to hope, even when the outcome is still unclear.
Parker Palmer calls this place of uncertainty “the tragic gap.”
In ministry or professional life, the progress we hope for may come slowly—or not all.
In our own personal goals and aspirations, the gap between what we wish for and what actually is may feel like the Grand Canyon.
In family and community, the reconciliation we pray for may be a long journey over hard roads.
At times, the “tragic gap” opens up within valued and trusted relationships as misunderstandings and the ravages of cancel culture and political upheaval give us endless ways of dividing from one another.The gap between what we wish for and what actually is may feel like the Grand Canyon.
Fine-Tuning Our Definition of Hope
Whenever I find myself standing in the space between what I desire and what I am holding in my hands, all the holes in my theology begin to show.
When the safe and familiar props are kicked out, I can see clearly where my hope had been resting all along.
Hoping in a job, in a frail human being, or even hoping in hope is a path to disappointment and despair.
Sadly, we’ve domesticated the word hope, taming it until it’s become a floating, sentimental abstraction, a pretty thought, useful for decorating couch pillows and coffee mugs.
The truth is that well-placed hope is our lifeline, and Paul commended believers in Thessalonica for their “endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 1:3).
Enduring hope is the bridge across the tragic gap!Enduring hope is the bridge across the tragic gap!
Three Steps to Building a Bridge of Hope
How, then, can believers build and reinforce that bridge of hope?
I’ve discovered three steps in my own journey.
Step 1: Build the bridge of hope upon the truth of God’s Word.
For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 3:11 HCSB
A solid and muscular theology concerning God is the only sure foundation for hope in this world.
When we hold ourselves before the truth of scripture, we must come expecting to learn more about God from its pages.
For example, Psalm 46:7 affirms God’s presence with us as a “stronghold,” and just in case we miss the point the first time, it’s there again in verse 11.
Strong habits of holiness are the safety net that keeps us building and moving forward. In fact, Michael J. Cusack describes the work of spiritual formation as “tend[ing] to the gap between what we believe and what we experience.”
We tend the tragic gap on the bridge of hope by our commitment to prayer and our daily soaking in Scripture.
Truth about God offsets the screaming banshees in our heads (and in the culture) that want to make our disappointment, our discouragement, and our struggles the biggest thing in the room.
Psalm 46:1 HCSB describes our overcoming God as “refuge and strength… in times of trouble.” This truth feeds an eternal perspective, enabling us to hold the tension between what we wish and what we see.We tend the tragic gap on the bridge of hope by our commitment to prayer and our daily soaking in Scripture.
Step 2: Find courage to walk on the bridge of hope.
“Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6 HCSB
A vibrant belief in God’s work of salvation through Jesus Christ gives us courage to begin walking across the bridge of hope over the tragic gap.
As we wait for the green light on a job offer, for the positive pregnancy test, or for relief from a chronic illness, we find firm footing.
Like the beleaguered Christians who received the book of Hebrews as a lifeline, we “endure a hard struggle… knowing that [we] have a better and enduring possession” (Heb 10:32, 34 HCSB).
On the balance scale, our suffering, our seasons of uncertainty, and all the tension of our unmet longings land like feathers when weighed against God’s great promises, secured for us by the death and resurrection of Christ.
In Romans 8, Paul sprays rhetorical questions across the page to demonstrate the invincibility of God’s good intentions toward us: “If God is for us, who is against us?…Who can separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rm 8:31, 35 HCSB)
Paul goes on to define living in hope as a patient tolerance for living with the unseen.
Spirit-fueled hope enables us to hear a music that drowns out the groaning of creation, assuring us that redemption is on its way.
Like one who has a secret superpower, the hopeful Christian banks on heaven as if it were already a present reality.Spirit-fueled hope enables us to hear a music that drowns out the groaning of creation, assuring us that redemption is on its way.
Step 3: Stand on the bridge of hope even in weakness.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9 HCSB
In Romans 8, Paul has written about the tragic gap on a cosmic scale: “For the creation was subjected to futility…” However, God’s intervention is also described on a cosmic scale: “The creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children” (Rm 8:20-21 HCSB).
We find grace to wait for what we do not see.
We find patience for the waiting because of God’s intervention: “The Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings” (Rm 8:26 HCSB).
This “weakness” includes everything we experience here on Earth – our grief, our anxiety, and the fears that keep us awake on our pillow.
The good news of the gospel includes a built-in invitation to offer all of it to God and to experience hope rooted in His attributes, not our own competence.
Even when we don’t know how to pray, God is there.
J.I. Packer describes those wordless, groaning prayers with this reassuring image: “The Holy Spirit fixes our prayers on the way up.”Even when we don’t know how to pray, God is there.
A Moment of Meditation on the Tragic Gap
Biblical truth spreads a banner of “NOT YET” across all of creation, soothing my dissatisfaction over the frustrations of the “RIGHT NOW” and helping me to appreciate the “ALREADY” of God’s redemptive plan that I presently experience in Christ.
Are you, personally, placing your hope in God Himself?
If the only way you can hold onto hope in this world is to have everything go according to plan, if hope depends on unmitigated success, you’re making deposits into an account that will always be overdrawn.
Spend a moment pondering God’s record of faithfulness to you in the past.
How has He worked to mitigate your prevailing sin tendencies or to intervene and rescue you from the sinfulness of others?
Are you committed to habits of holiness that will sustain your hope?
Remember, hope is a noun, but it’s also a verb.
It’s something you can practice—not so that you become stronger yourself, necessarily, but so that you can acquire a deeper awareness of the reality and presence of God.
Practice hoping in God, even as you look into the depths and line your toes up against the edge of the tragic gap.
He will be your bridge of hope.
– Michele Morin
Michele Morin writes, speaks, and teaches from a desire to see women become Christ-followers & students of God’s Word. She is a wife, Mum to four great men and three daughters-in-love, and Bam to five adorable grandchildren. Active in educational ministries with the church she calls home, Michele shares the books she is reading and the grace she is receiving at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.