Lament, Active Hope and Peace

This past week or so has been a harrowing one in my country, South Africa. A child kidnapped close to my neighbourhood and community search parties leading to nothing; the one-year anniversary of the death of a young lady who went to a post office only to be raped and murdered by a post office worker; the fatal shooting of a young disabled man who did not answer the police when asked a question! I can see from the international news that it has been similar around the world. Police brutality. Violence against women and children. Racism and prejudice. The issue of land and injustice. People trying to make a home in unwelcoming spaces. Human trafficking and modern-day slavery. The wrecking of the beautiful planet we call home. Relentless animal cruelty in the form of factory farming. The list could go on and on.

The world is a broken place.The opposite of ‘shalom’ in every way. We may ask ourselves, How long, Oh Lord?
I was on a call this week with one of our Micah Board members who is based in Lebanon and heard the hardship that the people of Beirut are facing. Daily we receive messages from Micah members around the world that tell of suffering and injustice and hardship. When one member of our body suffers, we need to lament together.
Decades ago I prayed a prayer that I have sometimes regretted – I prayed, “God, break my heart with the things that break your heart.” I had lived out much of my young Christian faith before that in a kind of protected and disconnected bubble, singing about Jesus and telling everyone of God’s goodness, while my country was burning in the last throes of apartheid, one of the most evil systems in the last century, endorsed by parts of the church in South Africa. But God cracked my heart open, and gave me eyes to ‘see’, and it changed my life then, and continues to do so. Since then it has cracked open again and again. I have learned to lament for this broken world. I have learned to love the world in a deeper and more connected way.
I listened to an excellent podcast this week where listeners were reminded that when you truly love, you move towards, not away from. If your child has leukemia you move towards them, not away. When the world you love is in desperate need of healing, we move towards the ‘dis-ease’, not away. God gives us a love for this world …and our compassion is our superpower not a weakness. It takes courage to ‘see’ and lament. But what happens if we stop at lament? It can be overwhelming and paralyzing, so we have to nurture hope and guard our minds as we live out our faith.  
But what does hope look like in a very broken world? This past week I have been thinking again about how hope is different to optimism. Optimism says everything will be okay with a false sense of positivity. Hope is active. It is involved. It is close to pain and suffering. I love how Rebecca Solnit phrases it in her book, Hope in the Dark:
 “Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” 
Active hope is more than optimism or positive thinking. It is what compels us to move and act for change. And God’s presence with us brings us peace in the midst of the storms. The world is a beautiful and broken place. God is restoring and bringing the kingdom down to earth. God is redeeming. We are being reconciled to God, to creation, to our neighbours. Yes, we lament and that moves us to act with hope for change, and God brings peace that is beyond our understanding as we do that.
As a part of the Micah secretariat team, I focus on communications, resources, content and storytelling, and as a journalist and editor by vocation, I take a particular interest in storytelling and news (I am a news junkie!). I have seen that the media mostly offers us two options – Hard News, which tells us how awful, hopeless and broken the world is, or Public Relations, which tells us of a perfect world that we know deep down is not true. The church sometimes mirrors this.   
I believe we can live out, follow and offer a ‘third way’, which acknowledges the brokenness of the world, and yet lives out and points to the lives, words and actions of people who are serving, loving, bringing change and showing a different way. This is active hope. We value the clip that Tearfund has released (see below) where we are reminded that we are invited to join God in this beautiful and powerful restoration journey.
We lament. We live out active hope. We work for change. We rest in God’s peace.
The whole of Psalm 94 has brought me great comfort this last week, but these verses are particularly encouraging.
16 Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
    Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the Lord had given me help,
    I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy. 
Linda Martindale
Micah Global

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