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July 2010

Hope is a protest against darkness

Rev Andre Le Roux has the responsibility to prepare worship resources for the Methodist Church of NZ. For the fourth week of Pentecost he created material on the theme of hope. In it he touched on his own struggle with cancer. This is an excerpt.

In writing about hope, I need to begin on a personal note. Many of you know that I have been diagnosed with a rare cancer that has not responded to treatment. Medically, ‘there is no hope’. What does this mean for me as a Christian? From a faith perspective, is hope now only about a miraculous healing?

My growing belief is that hope does not depend on outcomes or circumstances but on a fundamental state of being – one that carries us through the valley of the shadow of death, holds us in times of despair and challenges us into new ways of living when everything else seems uncertain. Hope is, after all, right up there with faith and love as one of the great qualities of life (1 Cor 13:13).

In many ways I see faith and hope as a seamless garment woven into the fabric of love. Faith is the seedbed of hope, and hope is the energy of faith, and over all these things is love. They all feed each other.

Hope is not about ‘one day things might get better’. Hope is about the certainty that God is with us, and will travel with us through anything we face. It is not about outcomes but about presence and process.

The trouble is that this presence of God often seems illusive. Like Elijah, I have told God how much I have done for Him and the church (1 Kings 19:10). I have begged for a miracle, searching for God in the earthquake, wind and fire of a spectacular turn-around that would prove to the world that God is real. As yet God has not been in these things.

The candle is a symbol of protest. It says to the darkness, ‘I beg to differ’. Hope protests against the darkness.

Like the demoniac in Luke 8, we are surrounded by a legion of life destroying elements: negativity, destructives, disease… the list goes on. We live with our own inner pain and turmoil, the demons that haunt us. They keep us chained to our doubts and fears and drive us into lonely places.

We wish for things to be different. We hope that, like the demoniac, we will be healed, “sitting at Jesus feet, dressed and in our right mind” (v35): But when the chains do not fall off? When we cannot break that habit, end that relationship, deal with that addiction, conquer that cancer…what then? Where is hope? Where is God? If hope does not depend on outcomes, on the removal of the demons, what does it mean to hope?

Hope is about who we are, people with whom God chooses to share life. I have a divine presence that accompanies me along the road. The Creator surrounds me, the Spirit embodies me. God is there, whatever the circumstance.

Hope means that I am held, even in the silence, by a “love that will not let me go”. This divine presence is bigger than our circumstances; it provides a starting point to face the struggles that surround us.

John Wesley, from his death bed, summed it up in 1791 when he uttered those famous last words “The best of all is God is with us”. Hope is found in presence, not in outcomes.

Hope is also nurtured by community. People expressing healing love can carry those who struggle through difficult times, even when the outcomes that they are hoping for do not arise. The sad part of the story of the demoniac is the way the people treated him: he is chained, rejected, isolated. And when he is healed, they are overcome with fear, even asking Jesus to leave the area!

However, when people get alongside those who suffer, giving prayerful attention to their needs, allowing emotions to be expressed and “demons” to be explored, something shifts. Burdens become lighter.

They become as Christ to us. Their presence says to the darkness, ‘I beg to differ’. Once again, we find hope being nurtured, not by outcomes, but by presence, by being loved.

This should not come as a surprise to us. Love has always been at the centre of the gospel and of God’s way. To be loved is to have hope. We can have the outcomes we desire, but without love we may well remain broken and lost.

On a practical level, we build hope on little things… That birthday celebration coming up, or resisting temptation for the day, or that moment. Hope comes when we realize that we got through that one circumstance, or achieved that small outcome. We may have a long way to go but each step we take builds on the next. We say to the darkness, ‘I beg to differ’.

For the full text and more of Andre’s worship resources visit refresh.methodist.org.nz