“you have been in constant suspense…” Acts 27:33
I fear what is coming. Will God rescue me from this threat or hand me over to it? I can’t trust Him to spare me as He never promised He would. I know bad things happen to ‘good’ people. Is it my turn to suffer? The unknown taunts me and as the saying goes, ‘the suspense is killing me’.
This week a local two-year old boy went missing near his rural home. Volunteers dropped everything to walk as an army of determined locusts over farm fields to find him. The day went. The moon rose. Quietly dawn peeked over the horizon.
Bleary-eyed the parents faced the new day. In suspense. Wanting to vomit, wanting to believe they could hope, waiting….suffering in the suspense.
When we are in suspense what do we fear? The news that ushers the fear into reality or worse, living after hearing it? Somehow the moment of truth seems survivable, but how can we face a future in light of it?
Awhile ago, I asked my friends if anticipation was needed to enjoy life. Can one be happy if they have nothing to look forward to? Anticipation is simply the belief that a tomorrow down the road will bring something good and we look forward to it. When we lose hope in that, when we have no promise of a good tomorrow, today suffers. Isn’t that why the threat of the opposite is so devastating? It works to remove hope.
“When neither the sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” Acts 27:20
This is found in the Bible, and it talks about Paul who was a missionary. He was on a ship that was taking him to his trial in the Roman courts. The ship is caught in a fierce storm and for days he and the others aboard are tossed about without relief. They lived in suspense. Would the ship stay firm or would it sink? Paul knew none of them would die because of a revelation he had but beyond that nothing. Anticipation of God rescuing the situation faded as the days wore on and the sun and stars refused to appear. In their place a storm raged and threatened the future of Paul and those with him. At some point, everyone gave up hoping. Even Paul. They anticipated no salvation. They were left in suspense to face the fear they did not want to happen…sinking. Paul had hope in the ending…but he had none in the situation.
The two-year old boy was found in the trunk of a car on the property, a few mere feet from all the anxious activity. The day he went missing Wisconsin was suffering intense heat. He was found the day after, dead. The suspense ended and the fear turned into a reality.
With the fear realized, I wonder if his parent’s anticipation for the future left them too. I feel despair and I do not even know this family. The pain is palpable even if you are not the one experiencing it. They must continue living….but how?
The sun and the stars did not shine for Paul for many days, but friends, they did not cease to shine, he just could not see it through the storm.
The hope was always there but Paul had to wait for the storm to pass to see it. It was only after the ship finally wrecked and left the frightened travelers abandoned on an island that Paul could finally see the stars again. Eventually, even after our worst fears are realized, hope returns. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, months…years, but the skies slowly clear and hope reemerges.
That is part of the secret to contentment, I think. Contentment knows that no matter what comes, hope will return. Contentment can survive the fate of today because it knows today is not the end. Grief is strong… and big… and scary… and its intensity often overshadows what lies above… but it does not obliterate it. Storms that end badly can be endured only because we know that the sadness it brings is not forever. Eventually, the sting becomes numb and fades and our eyes turn to new possibilities. We see the stars again. Faith, hope, love….somehow these always remain though we can not produce them ourselves. There will always be hope after tragedy because God created hope in the heart of man for a purpose; in His wisdom He knows that without it we would all perish in our grief. Yet He did not create a baseless hope, no, there is a grand hope ahead, not just in the eternal but in the here and now. A hope that secures a contentment that can be had in the most dire of circumstances. Whatever you are facing, above the clouds, there are stars and an amazing SON shining.