That’s the only way to describe it.
High school finals week had arrived and I anxiously waited outside of my Biology classroom. My entire grade hung in the balance of that comprehensive, semester-encompassing final.
A dissected cat reeking of formaldehyde (and smelling to high heaven, I might add), a microscope, one chair, and the teacher waited inside. As the teacher pointed to the cat's various muscles and tendons, and then slides under the microscope, I was expected to recite the scientific names, their specific purposes, and how they functioned.
And the test clock started.
Blind panic did not improve memory function. I had not studied well. I was in over my head. The ramifications of failing were epic. Test day had arrived and I was ill prepared. The moment of truth was at hand. Thoughts such as, “Why didn’t I prepare better?” and “What was I thinking?” reverberated in my head.
King David had. Not in a school classroom, but in the classroom of life. On a lazy afternoon when King David should have been on the road with the Israelite army, he looked down from his palace rooftop and noticed a beautiful woman taking a bath (2 Samuel 11).
And God's test clock started.
The moment of truth was at hand. David was in over his head. Only after adultery, murder and epic failure did David ask himself, “What was I thinking?”
We tend to avoid tests because there's a chance we'll fail. Miserably. God administered lots of tests throughout Scripture. He asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son (Gen. 22:1-24). Moses and the Israelites waited each day for fresh manna (Ex. 16). And then there was Job -- poor Job -- caught in the middle of a war in the spiritual realm.
We rarely know when God starts the test clock, so these tests cause us to realize how much we still need to learn - about Him, about life, about loving others as ourselves.
God tests our faith so that He can refine us - not to watch us fail. Job went through vigorous testing by God, but his faith was proved genuine: "But He knows the way I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold." (Job 23:10) Despite the flames of God's refining fire, Job's faith held him steadfast - even when those he held closest abandoned and ridiculed him. And God blessed him tremendously.
Learning from, and even looking forward to, God's tests of faith require us to keep our face plastered on Him. There are no two ways around it - tests can hurt. They can shake us to our core. But God promises to bring forth good.
If we let Him.
When you believe God is testing you, do you look forward to it or hate it?
Eventually, the conversation narrowed down to personal concerns: family, relational discord, and health issues.
As I completed checking out and turned to leave, one lady asked the other in a tired, resigned voice, "Do you think it's childish to have hope about anything anymore?"
Her hopeless question troubled me for days -- mainly because somewhere deep down, perhaps I needed to wrestle with that myself.
What I discovered is the vast difference between wishful thinking and true hope.
We may wish for a Ferrari and a Beverly Hills mansion, but unless Daddy Warbucks pulls up it's just wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is an open-ended thought process that expects no results. It fits in the same category as daydreaming.
Hope, however, anchors in confident expectation. An expectation that circumstances will change. True hope manifests in a peace that passes all understanding that when the walls come tumbling down, they're not down for good.
True hope isn't childish - it just takes a child-like faith.
Hope expects. The events of 9/11 shone forth true hope in high definition blue-ray. Hope kept workers digging for weeks in confident expectation of finding survivors. Hope moved firefighters' feet toward chaos to rescue people when everyone else ran away. They confidently expected all was not lost. They were right.
Hope reminds us what Jesus promised: "I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10b)
Not a half life.
Not a worry-filled existence.
To live - fully alive.
You and I can serve as hope traffickers. When chaos reigns, we help and serve others with the confident expectation that God always brings good out of evil. He is always for us, never against us. He provides our only hope for getting out of this world alive - eternally.
God's hope provides an anchor for our soul regardless of our circumstances. Without true hope we remain adrift on the floating debris of wishful thinking.