(…continued) I meet with many couples who are preparing to get married. Some have good jobs already, making lots of money, and having fun; and sometimes they say, “We aren’t going to have any kids—we’re just going to enjoy life.” Those are the ones I worry about the most. Others are struggling along, living check to check, with no money to afford anything fun. Sometimes they want to start a family, and they don’t know how they are going to ever afford kids. I tell them to work hard, be frugal, have the kids, live within their means, and someday their financial situation will be better. In the meantime, I say, do not be frustrated by the lack of money. For now, the struggle is good. I tell them they will learn a lot more about life by struggling, than by having everything going their way already when they are only 25 years old.
Are you getting the picture? We are mixed-up people—all of us. We need hope, but hope always sets us up for disappointment. Much of the time, we don’t even know for sure what we want. In the seventh chapter of the book of Romans Paul gives a good description of how mixed up we are. He says: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. I do not do the good that I want to do, but the evil I do not want, is what I do.” We don’t know what we want, and we don’t do the good we want to do, and Paul says this is because of the sin that dwells within us. But then he concludes with these words of a deeper and a truer hope. He says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
What could God add to Kenny’s life—more land? God does not want Kenny or anyone to give up on hope, but God is always offering us a deeper hope. All the land Kenny accumulated will be his only for a little while, and will one day be owned by someone else. Even the best marriages that have had a minimum of disappointment will still be ended by death, and that is a most dreadful disappointment. And young married couples struggling to get on a firm financial foundation must not forget about that most solid foundation that is only found in our eternal hope with God. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We must be willing to accept finite disappointment, but we must never let go of our infinite hope.”
We are indeed ‘prisoners of hope;’ ever restless because there is always something more we want. We just have to remember what that something more always is. It is what St. Augustine prayed for when he prayed: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” As Jesus Christ said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens (even the burdens of crushed hopes), and I will give you rest… Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Jesus promises rest from the ongoing despair of disappointment in our flimsy temporary hopes. We may rest in His promise of a secure and solid eternal hope.
Romans 7:21-25 — I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Lamentations 3:24-26 — I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Almighty God, in whom we live and move and have our being, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. Grant us purity of heart and strength of purpose, that no selfish passion may hinder us from knowing your will, and no weakness from doing it; but that in your light we may see light clearly, and in your service we may find our perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–St. Augustine (354-430)