There is an expectation throughout the Christian story and faith that journeying through the darkness is not the end. Whilst experiencing the anguish of current suffering, there is a belief that this is a state of incompleteness, of something better to come.
Marika Rose writes on the nature of hope and how it requires a trust beyond ourselves:
“What better symbol could there be for hope than waiting for a baby to be born? So much depends on us and yet so much is hidden from us, utterly mysterious and unknowable. A baby in the womb is a blank slate on whom we write our dreams and expectations, our dearest hopes and fears. And yet the process of gestation and birth is also one in which the baby becomes their own self. However well we feel that we know the person who is coming into being, we never quite know who is going to emerge, silently or noisily, quickly or slowly, into the light of day. “If pregnancy has anything to tell us about hope it’s that it is not one thing but many. It is the terror of uncertainty; the discomfort of the disruption of our lives, our very bodies; the pleasures and the pains of dependency on one another; the desire for control and its impossibility; the nausea of impatience and frustration; the boredom of just waiting; the guilt of wondering whether we are doing enough; the delight of small changes that add up to something utterly new and yet, somehow, bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh.
“Like the process of producing art, making a baby is something that we do and yet also something that comes to us from outside; the same is true of hope. Whatever we do it is never quite enough. We can never quite control what comes, who comes. All we can do is wait and work and pray; and perhaps – we hope – the spirit of God will overshadow us and new life will begin to make its way into the world.”
And so we wait in the now. With an expectation for what is ‘not yet’. The joy and significance of this for the Christian lies not in wishful thinking, but in trusting in a person. Someone who claimed to be God. Who could therefore deliver a hope far beyond the confines of our vulnerability and into eternity, where every longing, need and expectation will be met. ‘Now and not yet’ is a tension, with the difficulties of our current state versus a transformative hope. With Him, we live in the light, and this light casts hope on every corner and crevice of our existence.
Photograph: ‘Story Time’ was a piece featured in Fetlework Tesfaye’s show Snippets of Hope, as part of Refugee week 2014.
Dr Marika Rose is a theologian based at Durham University. She is a member of THB community.