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15 September 2017

Hope: the day after...

Hope: the day after...

Rachael Wooldridge is a lecturer and PhD student at St Melitus College, London.

This week, from Barbuda to Tampa, the biggest Atlantic hurricane in recent history ripped through homes, communities, and lives. Hurricane Irma has left millions of people displaced, and caused billions of pounds worth of damage. Many are without power, without homes, and some are left with little more than the clothes on their back. The same story is told in Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Nepal and India.

As the winds settle, the waters subside, and the media covering ceases, people are left to process the devastation, returning home to the destruction. I can't imagine what it must be like, to lose everything, overnight.

The prophet Isaiah speaks to those who also faced a similar reality some 2,500 years ago, as they return to the devastated city of Jerusalem and towns of Judah, to this land they were exiled from, their home.

Speaking to a people who may have felt abandoned by God, Isaiah's vision erupts, casting a shard of light into the darkness of their circumstance, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you." (Isaiah 60:1) and continues on, alive with the possibility and promise, filling the imagination with hope in the midst of the despair.

The Lord had not abandoned or forgotten His people, He is not paralysed by the darkness, or helpless amidst of the ruins. God calls His people today, as He did then, to arise, shine and to be the people that "will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated… renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." (Isaiah 61:4).

It is such a vision of hope that Jesus draws from at the start of his ministry in Luke 4, Jesus' very life is an exposition of the hope that erupts in Isaiah 61; he is its true fulfilment, he is the rebuilder of lives, the restorer of relationships.

As followers of Jesus, we may not have answers to suffering, we may not have a quick fix to society's problems, or be able to wind the clock back, but we have hope in a God that has a track record of rebuilding lives from the ruins of their circumstances.

A while ago Pope Francis said in a TED talk, "To Christians the future has a name, and its name is hope... feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naive and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing... Hope is a virtue of the heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness, that doesn't dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow."

God desires His people to be those who see a tomorrow for those who cannot. To be those who have the prophetic imagination to see what could be in the light of the God who can create from dust. To be a people who find the words to articulate such hope, the faithfulness to pray it into reality, and the courage to share in His work of rebuilding with those amongst the ruins.

So as many set out on rebuilding their lives this week, in an everyday experience that can seem so far from God, whether it be in the aftermath of a hurricane or a flood, or after the devastation of a diagnosis, redundancy, divorce or loss of any shape, may we, by the power of His Spirit, play our part in the rebuild, in the restoration and renewal God started in Jesus, and longs to continue in His world.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash