Earlier this week, hope blossomed as news reports first announced that 12 of the 13 miners trapped in the West Virginia mine had survived.
Then, of course, the tragic revision of those reports followed. Only one man survived the Monday morning mine explosion. Emotions whipsawed from near total joy, to near total devastation. And for many people, including those beyond the miners' immediate families and the mining community, their hope and faith lay badly shaken, if not in ruins.
I sort through the embers of this story and wonder, Could hope be such a cheat? I turn to the Psalmist for comfort. He says, "Thou art my hope, O Lord God" (Ps. 71:5).
It dawns on me. Hope in events or news reports may be false hope. But hope in God? That hope is not subject to ruin, is never a cheat. God is my hope. God, who is the very Life of my being, of each person's being, He is our hope. I begin to get it.
In my own life I've glimpsed times without number that He doesn't cheat. His love, His care, His sustaining power for each of His children doesn't waver. I don't have to let bad events shape my hope and faith in God. I don't have to let them diminish my hope. It can be the other way around. As I see His real nature, my hope in God brims with power. Could it even reshape bad events into events with better outcomes? Yes.
As I ponder these facts, I get a call from a friend. Rather than wallowing in sorrow, she points me, unexpectedly, to the Bible story of Jonah, best known as the prophet who was swallowed by a giant fish. What most catches my attention is the angle from which my friend re-views the story. She doesn't examine it as one looking across the centuries, knowing the end from the outset. She considers it as the secondary characters in the account - the passengers and crew on the boat with Jonah - must have considered it. They strove to save Jonah. They battled the storm. They prayed. Finally, though, they felt they had no choice but to throw him overboard.
And that, from their point of view, was the end of the story, the end of Jonah, the end of their hope. They never saw him again, never heard about the great fish, never knew that God directed the fish to deliver him safely, never knew Jonah carried out his original mission in Nineveh, given him by God, but from which he'd fled.
Yes, Jonah went on. He grew, he drew closer to God, he blessed many. As I listen to his story retold by my friend, it shines anew in my heart. I sense that this prophet tells me something about the miners lost in Tallmansville, W.Va. I believe it tells me that hope is not a cheat, not when one places it in the God who is pure good, who never wavers, never leaves us, is ever at hand. I believe it tells me that those miners, like Jonah, are in some way still going forward.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "When the real is attained, which is announced by Science, joy is no longer a trembler, nor is hope a cheat" (p. 298). What does it mean by "the real"? Is it pointing to the way God sees things? His view must be the real view, the true view, the view that, as we gain it, becomes a kind of healing prayer. And with the attainment of that view, hope doesn't cheat us.
No way are we supposed to simply resign ourselves to tragedies. In fact, as our prayers are fueled by the hope that is in God, something wonderful happens. The day comes closer when such tragedies become rarer. Then Jonah-like victories, perhaps out of sight to us at the moment, move more into view.
Let thy mercy, O Lord,
be upon us, according
as we hope in thee.