yesterday afternoon found me chatting with a friend who's recently been going through a tough time. for a month, it's seemed as though she's been running full tilt into a stone wall in her prayers, with no discernible change in her circumstances. she said something that struck my heart, if for no other reason than that i've been there myself so many times. "it would be easier if i just had some hope of things changing, but i don't."
hope. it's almost a double-edged sword. hope for something (or in something) can motivate us to face another day when a broken heart would try to immobilize us. a hope that comes from God sparks life. however, we also set ourselves up for a season of crushing when we misplace our hope.
i've often thought Romans 5:5 didn't always ring entirely true. any woman whose doctor has nixed her dreams of having a child knows that hope deferred makes the heart sick. that for which we hope most earnestly also has the power to disappoint us most. what do we say when hope does disappoint--when the rain drenches us despite our speaking to the storm and we are left praying, "Jesus....i did what You said. now what?"
the king james version of romans 5:5 reads that hope does not make us ashamed. the greek word used here is kataischynō, meaning to "dishonour, disgrace, to put to shame, make ashamed." there is a world of difference between disappointment and disgrace. i'm disappointed when the company discontinues my favorite brand of lipstick, or when my soccer team fails to win one of their games. disappointment covers a spectrum of emotions, all the way up to heartbreak and depression. it is no minor emotion.
however, disgrace--shame--takes it further. disgrace can mark a person in a way that disappointment never does. it reflects back on the character of the person. one who is disgraced cannot separate himself or herself from the specific circumstance. while disappointment cuts, disgrace brands.
i love the final "thought" that strong's interpretation of the original greek gives. it says: "one is said to be put to shame who suffers a repulse, or whom some hope has deceived" (my emphasis added). hope can blind and deceive us--but the hope that is from God does not. this is what paul was saying. hope that springs out of trial for the cause of Christ does not disgrace us because God's hope is not deceptive, and because He overwhelms us with His love through the Holy Spirit to take the sting out of any disappointment we may face.