March is the cruelest month.
At least it is for me, and I suspect the same is true for many who make the Upper Midwest their home.
March is gray and cold and it feels like winter will never end. Ever. Crusty snow covers everything, trees stand stark and empty, sky flat and lifeless. This is our past, present and future. It's a black and white world, devoid of color and sound and passion. A world that tempts me to stop believing in the miracle of spring.
But a world without hope is even more bleak than the landscape outside my window.
I have marked ten Marches since our return to Minnesota, and the seasons are teaching me this. Waiting does not diminish me, anymore than it diminishes a pregnant woman, and if the seed of faith buried in the cold dirt is to burst forth with new life, it must be watered with hope.
Three years ago, I wrote this:
In my experience, waiting produces one of two fruits in my life. Either I grow helpless as the days tick by and my prayers aren’t answered – and along with helpless, comes a side crop of bitterness, resignation and unbelief – or I dig in my heels and grow hopeful.I need to remember this. I need the courage hope holds out. To withstand March. To wait for spring.
I’ve written before about the difference between the Western definition of hope and God's definition of hope. Our culture uses hope as a synonym for wish. “Oh, I hope I can find one more box of Thin Mint cookies this year.” “I hope we get to live in that neighborhood someday.” “I hope my kids won’t catch the stomach flu going around.”
But that’s not God’s hope. The Greek word most often translated as “hope” in the New Testament is elpis or elpo. Strong’s Greek Dictionary defines it as “to anticipate, usually with pleasure; an expectation or confidence."
In other words, it’s not a wish. It’s a certainty. Biblical hope is as certain as spring, as certain as the birth of this baby who is currently kick-boxing my ribcage. It might not be happening right now, and even the symptoms might be far off. But it is coming.
Because it's coming. Even when it doesn't look like it.