Muted colors of winter’s pre-dawn flee
As brighter hues begin to bleed.
A subtle awakening across the sky
Gradual, like a yawn that cannot be withdrawn.
Footprints stamped in crusty snow,
A zigzag gloss of February ice coats the pavement––
I’m distracted by textures below me.
But, not for long. Here she comes.
A neon sliver,
Turned emerging ball
With the horizon, a lip curled along the lake.
Maybe I could crawl across,
Peak over the edge,
And wave the dawn to take her place,
Her brilliant position.
For such a repetitive performance
She comes with glorious vitality
Eager readiness that is all quite
Startling and mesmerizing
Comforting and invigorating.
Oh morning sun, you’ve come back
In all your illuminating sameness.
Over the years, my friend and I have driven to Atwater Park which overlooks Lake Michigan to watch the sun rise. We’ve braved the winter cold and enjoyed brisk summer mornings, shivering with anticipation, eyes still cloudy with sleep. While cruising on the highway, parking on an empty Lake Drive, and shuffling to the nearest bench, I’ve never turned to my friend and said, “I hope the sun rises today.”
I would sound ridiculous.
Of course it will.
More Than Wishful Dreaming
This past spring, I joined a lecture series on the book of Joshua. The Bible teacher brought up the theme of hope, mentioning the wide difference between how we use the word in the 21st century and what it communicates in a biblical and ancient context.
Considering a few common expressions, I notice when we use “hope” in a sentence today, we’re often communicating a wish rather than an absolute certainty. “I hope it doesn’t rain this afternoon.” “I hope she remembers to call me.” “I hope they have my size in stock.” In our vocabulary, “hope” stretches wide to include many scenarios, from weather and schedules, our friendships and expressions of empathy, to dreams and future outcomes.
In Scripture however, two of the Hebrew verbs translated into our English word “hope” communicate waiting, looking, and expecting. Throughout the Psalms, David connects this active hope with God Himself.
No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame. (Ps. 25:3, NIV)
… for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long … may integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, LORD, is in you. (Ps. 25:5 & 21)
Hope in the LORD and keep his way. (Ps. 37:34)
The unchanging character of the Lord anchors the shepherd king. His hope is as sure and secure as his circumstances are wearying and perilous. David is not wishing God will act; he knows that He will.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Ps. 130:5)
When I go to the lakefront early in the morning, I expect to see the sun rise.
I’m waiting for it with eagerness and certainty. I don’t doubt that at a specific time, I’ll see the sun emerge from beneath the horizon.
In this realm of nature, predictability is a welcome comfort to us. I know, regardless of the weather, that the sun will come up in the east. Some mornings, clouds sitting on the horizon have limited the sun to a mere glow rather than a blinding light. The sight may be less dazzling to behold; nevertheless the sun has dawned yet again.
To hope in God is to expect Him to work in the midst of our present circumstances.
And part of that process will include asking Him to bring our wandering hearts to a deeper place of trust.
Drawing Near to God
This shift in my own life has looked like approaching God in prayer––with my questions, praise or lament––while my situation is still unresolved or the path forward is uncertain. The alternative tempts me to throw all my hope on my circumstances––waiting for them to change before I come to the Lord or wishing for different circumstances more than I desire God to draw my heart closer to Him.
To hope––as illustrated in the Scripture––then translates into expecting Him to work, looking for the ways He’s softening my heart, and waiting for His wisdom or comfort while things are still “up in the air.” Don’t misunderstand me. To hope in the Lord is not a passive acceptance of situations to remain as they are. When Saul was hurling threats at David and pursuing him with the intent to kill David, David fled. He went into hiding. The danger surrounding him was real. David’s response helps us to see that his hope remained in the Lord even as he ran for his life. David trusted that God was his protector and provider. For David to hope meant that he trusted God, not Saul, to be the keeper of his days and the shepherd of his life.
This reality brings me such sweeping comfort, even as it illuminates my need for Jesus. Throughout Psalm 119, David calls out to the Lord, not to boast in his own self-assurance but pleading with God to align his faint heart with the truths of His Word.
My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, ‘When will you comfort me?’ (Ps. 119:81)
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. (v. 147)
David’s hope is not strengthened because he’s a qualified human being. The hope rising up and sustaining him is drawn from the well of God’s sufficiency.
All of David is resting in God. And he bids his people to do the same, “for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption” (130:7).
* * *
Friends, let us hope in the Lord as surely as we hope the sun will greet us tomorrow.
This language ought to shape our faith. May the certainty that is almost subconscious as we consider the dawn characterize our abiding assurance in the Lord.
For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good. (Ps. 52:9)
His good name and the history of His faithfulness are the eternal grounds for our hope.