Despair is Where Hope is Born

Sometimes I get tired of talking about sad things. Sometimes I want to talk about peace and love and joy.

So recently, when I was asked to join two other speakers in presenting on the theme, “Emotions in the Psalms,” I asked if I could do something on the happy side. I’m tired of talking about grief.

But the more I got into it, the more I heard Admiral Ackbar declaring, “It’s a trap!” Turns out you can’t talk about hope without dealing with despair.

I started coming across words like these from Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann: “The prophetic poet asserts hope precisely in exile.”

I listened to the amazing new song by Andrew Peterson, Is He Worthy? The song ends with a beautiful proclamation about the Lamb and the Throne and all peoples gathered around, but it starts with these questions and congregational responses:

Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)


And again, Brueggemann:

“Hope expressed without knowledge of and participation in grief is likely to be false hope that does not reach despair. Thus…it is precisely those who know death most painfully who can speak hope most vigorously.”


We need this reminder.

We need to remember that true hope is not just optimism. True hope is not a flimsy, fluffy thing. No, true hope, Biblical hope, sees it all. It sees the bad, the hard, the pain. It sees the depths and the darkness. It sees the world’s sin and my own sin.

And it keeps on seeing…all the way to Christ. In the end, deep hope must be securely grounded in the character and love of God.

So if you’re not really feeling it, if you’re not feeling happy-clappy-Jesus-is-alive-and-all-my-problems-are-fixed, then take heart, because that’s precisely where hope is born.


For more exposition on these themes, including a look at the magnificent Psalm 130 and the role of imagination in hope, check out the audio of my message here or via the trotters41 podcast.



Psalm 130 (A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem)

From the depths of despair, O LORD,

I call for your help.

Hear my cry, O Lord.

Pay attention to my prayer.

LORD, if you kept a record of our sins,

who, O Lord, could ever survive?

But you offer forgiveness,

that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the LORD;

yes, I am counting on him.

I have put my hope in his word.

I long for the Lord

more than sentries long for the dawn,

yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the LORD;

for with the LORD there is unfailing love.

His redemption overflows.

He himself will redeem Israel

from every kind of sin.