At a Holy Week service one year, the meditation included a powerful reference to the ancient ritual of foot washing, “Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him” (John 13:5 NRSV). At that moment, my eyes were closed. The stream of water being poured from a pitcher into a basin made a spiritual impression on my soul that I will never forget. It was the sound of poured love.
The Apostle Paul talks about our spiritual and emotional progression through the tests and trials of life, “…knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given us” (Romans 5:4-5 NRSV). This logical sequence of emotional progression well describes the meantime of life that is grief.and how God’s perfect plan is continuously at work in our lives, especially through the life-altering loss of death. The power of God’s poured out love comes to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26 NRSV).
In other words, the love of God found in hope is the antidote to our disappointment, the remedy for our sadness, and the faith of our grief. The extra measure of endurance and character we acquire because of our experience of suffering should lead us inevitably to hope. We are absolutely assured that hope does not disappoint us because the love of God has been poured into our hearts. Not trickled in or carefully measured and added by the cupful, but poured in with love and spiritual abandon. Our hearts are filled to capacity, sometimes to overflowing, with hope because of God’s love given to us through the Holy Spirit, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NRSV).
The intangible, unseen nature of hope is sometimes elusive, especially when we grieve, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?” (Romans 8:24 NRSV). It takes spiritual energy, patience, and a certain faithful fortitude to hope, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25 NRSV). Often hope takes more imagination than we are able to muster. When we feel that all is lost, for a while we simply do not see the value of hope. We ask why we should reinvest in life if there is a chance our hope will again be disappointed, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God” (Psalm 42:11 NRSV).
We dare to hope again in life because we are filled by the dynamic liquid power of God’s poured out love “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth” (Psalm 71:5 NRSV). When we grieve, we live out our faith when we practice hope rather than hopelessness. When we live hopefully rather than in despair, we are people of hope as people of faith because God’s love has been poured into our hearts, “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:22 NRSV). In truth, grief can be the most honest and faithful place we will ever stand to find the true meaning of hope when we are face to face with the emotional surrender of grief, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer” (Romans 12:12 NRSV).
If you close your eyes and listen carefully, you will hear the steady stream of Living Water and experience the power of poured out love that is the presence of God, “…so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:20 NRSV). Our soul is refreshed because of the steadfast love and faithful presence of God, poured out to us as hope. Refreshed by poured out love, our spirit is restored to wonder and gratitude for the sacred gift of life. We are blessed with a faith that is richer and deeper because we have survived the death of one we love. Poured out love fills our heart with joy and peace, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23 NRSV).