Hope Makes a Broken Heart Bigger

Two years after he lost his son, you could tell he had changed. Death had stolen into his family and pierced him, shattered him, broken him. Yet gradually, haltingly, he crawled up from that pit and limped among the living again. And over time, friends could see he spoke less quickly, listened more patiently, and was becoming a refuge for the wounded and bereaved. His heart, though battered and torn, had grown bigger for his grief.

Years after her own traumatic trials, you could tell she too had changed. She was still sociable, but sarcasm seemed to taint most conversations. Friends couldn’t talk deeply with her anymore, at least not safely. She walked through the world as a Mara, without hope of becoming Naomi again (Ruth 1:20). Her heart, now protected under layers of superficiality, slowly calloused.

Though a few details in these two portraits are imagined, the people behind them are not. Almost a decade later, the faces of this man and this woman remain imprinted on my memory: the first weeping in brokenhearted faith, the second smiling in detached cynicism. No doubt many of us can recall similar faces and similar stories — stories of how suffering softened or hardened someone. How suffering softened or hardened us.

When the breakers and waves of sorrow wash over us, some drift into a shoreless sea of hopelessness. And others, through agonized gasps, say to their soul, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5–6).

Hope Against Hope

The pages of Scripture are filled with such hopers: psalmists who remember God’s works at midnight (Psalm 77), prophets who sing during famines (Habakkuk 3:17–19), worshipers who trust God, though he slays them (Job 13:15). Like Abraham, all these “in hope . . . believed against hope” (Romans 4:18) that God’s promises, though threatened by all the world, somehow still would come true.

For those living on this side of the cross, one of the simplest and most powerful statements of suffering hope comes from the apostle Paul: “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). Where does supernatural joy come from — the kind that can worship while weeping, and then emerge from suffering with a tender and trusting heart? Only from stubborn hope in the coming glory of God.

Glory to Come

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)

The story of Scripture is a story of glory. God crowned us with glory in creation (Psalm 8:5). We lost that glory in the fall (Romans 1:23; 3:23). Christ recovered our glory in the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6). And now we hope in “the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

“The day is coming when the glory of Christ will rush upon our sad world like the roar of many waters.”

The day is coming when the glory of Christ will rush upon our sad world like the roar of many waters. Jesus will give the word, and a billion Lazaruses will shake off their graveclothes, and never wear them again. Jesus will lay his hand on our broken earth, and like a healed paralytic it will rise, take up its bed, and walk into the fullness of the freedom of the children of God. And then we, standing with glorified bodies upon a glorified earth, will behold Glory himself (Revelation 22:4).

Though glory can sometimes sound vague, ethereal, hazy, the coming glory will be anything but that. It will be the glory each of us most desperately needs: the balm for every wound unhealed, the cast for every bone still broken (Revelation 21:4). Like the voice of Jesus to Mary in the resurrection garden, glory will speak our name and bring an end to all our weeping (John 20:15).

For now, some dreams stay shattered, some relationships remain broken, some scars never fade. But when Jesus comes in glory, he will make a grave for all our griefs.

Hope Without Shame

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)

We do not see such glory now, of course. For now, we “groan inwardly as we wait” (Romans 8:23). Yet here in the groaning and the waiting, hope lights up the darkness like a grand constellation. “We hope for what we do not see” (Romans 8:25), yes — but with a hope that “does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:5).

A million other hopes will put us to shame. A million hopes will take our hearts and break them clean in two. A million hopes will crucify our dreams and fail to resurrect them. But this hope will not put us to shame. And why? We could say because God has never put to shame anyone who has hoped in him — and we would be right. But here Paul gives another reason: “Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

In Jesus Christ, we have tasted a love that cannot lie. This love, poured into our hearts like a river, flows to us from Calvary’s fountain, where “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). And if Christ’s love found a way to forgive all our sins, even the ones that felt unforgivable, then surely he will find a way to cure all our sorrows, even the ones that feel incurable.

So, no matter how heavy the stone that has entombed you in sorrow, you are no fool for hoping it will roll away one day. As surely as Jesus has loved us, it must roll away when glory arrives.

River of Joy

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)

Hope cannot bury our sorrows — only the coming glory can. But hope can give us such confidence in the coming glory that we find ourselves rejoicing even now.

What kind of joy is this that sings among the ruins of our suffering? At times, this joy may run through our souls like an underground river, invisible and perhaps barely felt. At other times, however, this joy will break through the earth with a mighty rush and become joy “inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8) — filled, in other words, with something of the glory to come. Then we may feel the truth of G.K. Chesterton’s words,

Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live. (Orthodoxy, 169)

“In Jesus Christ, we have tasted a love that cannot lie.”

Joy will be the fundamental thing in us soon. Yet even now it can be. Even now joy can outrun and out-sing our griefs — not by ignoring them, but by fixing our sight on the day when “sorrow and sighing” will not just disappear, but “shall flee away” (Isaiah 51:11), just like the fugitives they are, from the face of Almighty and Everlasting Joy.

Hope in God

Some talk of Christian hope as if it were a simple matter. But let us speak clearly: hoping in God through suffering may be the hardest thing we ever do. Far easier to resign yourself to the pit than to keep waiting and trusting, singing and believing. Far easier to embrace cynicism than to go on hoping against hope.

But those who hope in God join a great cloud of witnesses. They join Abraham and Sarah as they hoped for a son, Isaiah as he hoped for the suffering servant, Jeremiah as he hoped for new mercies over Jerusalem, Mary as she hoped that nothing would be impossible with God, and a thousand other saints whose lives proved the promise true that “hope does not put us to shame.”

And even more, they find that hope has a way of making broken hearts bigger. If we will say to our souls, “Hope in God,” then suffering will not leave us embittered and brittle. Suffering will rather shape us into the image of the Man of Sorrows himself, whose hope bore the burdens of the world.