/ Timothy McCracken

when hope is actual, but not yet perceived

What follows is a one-page letter I sent to those from my prison chapel groups on September 28, 2020, about six months into the virus lock-down crisis. During that season of time, the men were very often called upon to spend twenty-three out of each day’s twenty-four hours in their cells; an hour out of doors might come but once a week.

Dear brother,

In our walk of faith, it is possible that hope can actually be there but not perceived.

Does that make sense?  What I’m talking about is that in God Himself and in His faithfulness there can be real cause for hope (realities about His relationship with you now and about what He will be to you in every coming day) but which our faculty of trust hasn’t yet latched onto with hope, because to us our circumstances make it seem impossible. This is one reason that the Apostle Paul would pray for believers …

Ephesians 1:18 …that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you...

The prayer presumes that we may not know the hope as well as we could. It also teaches that God, in His grace and by His Spirit can enlighten our faith’s perception so that we can know it and so that hope can happen.

You may have heard me at one time or another relate this illustration before, but it’s been a moving one to me:

In 2013, a man named Harrison Okene was a crew member of a very large tug boat that went down about 20 miles off the coast of Nigeria.  The ocean floor at that point was more than 100 feet down, and there he was trapped at the bottom, with only a four-foot pocket of air for breathing.  The fascinating part of this story is that he survived down there for nearly three days! All other crew members perished, and the dive team that was sent eventually was not sent for rescue, only for the recovery of bodies.

During all those many hours of confinement, with a full knowledge of how desperate his circumstances were, there would have to have been many, many times of drawing the conclusion that it was over, that all hope of rescue was lost.  In Mr. Okene’s own words, he said, “I know I am going to die.”  Interestingly, he was a believing man, and he prayed and prayed and prayed; but he spoke of eventually stopping the prayer for rescue, and saying simply,

“ ‘God, let thy will be done as it is in heaven, because I have tried my best; and I have called on you, and you have never failed me before, and you will never fail me’.  …  ‘if death comes, let it come…’”

…but then came a ray of hope.  There was the sound of an anchor dropping nearby, and the sounds of divers, and the sound of metal upon metal, as they opened doors and searched.  SOMEONE WAS THERE!

For the purpose of this illustration I’m talking about what it means to know a reason for hope.  After something like 68 hours, when all was still silence, there wouldn’t yet have been a knowledge of reason for hope.  All the while, though, the rescue had been coming.  Before the anchor dropped, before there was the sound of divers, and, most importantly, before seeing the actual light of the headlamp of the diver who found him (How deeply dark would it have been!), there would have been no acquaintance with the reality that hope was coming.  And yet all the while it WAS coming!

APPLICATION: The greater your acquaintance with the truth and certainty of the hope of the inheritance stored up for you in heaven – that is, you upon whom God had had mercy so that you have entrusted yourselves to Christ for salvation – the more heartened you will be, the more hopeful  you will be.  So my prayer for you and for my own soul is this:

Roma 15:13 (NIV) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Scripture also recommends to us that we consciously state the truth to ourselves, as we seek to learn trust.

Psalm 42:5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.