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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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The silence of God | Hope beyond what we can conceive

However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit

1 Corinthians 2:910

 


 

God has set eternity in the human heart, writes the preacher (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are born for more and, deep within, we know it. We seek longer life – the elixirs on our bathroom shelves and our faddish dieting are markers of our longing to live forever. We know, in ways we cannot say, that we were born for eternal life. And, for those who have trusted in Jesus, this longing is grounded in his promise that his people will live with him forever upon a renewed earth. 

Yes, God has set eternity in the human heart. But, as the preacher also says, no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – these are the things that God has prepared for those who love him. They are mysteries beyond seeing, beyond hearing, beyond even imagining.  

Many of us spend much of our early years of faith never thinking at all of our future with Jesus. We focus on the joys and possibilities of the now; age and infirmity have not yet done their work of stirring us to long for a better country, a heavenly one (Hebrews 11:16). If ever we think of heaven’s joys, we imagine perhaps the most fanciful of possibilities – earthly dreams fulfilled. 

Biblical hope, though, is grounded in realities that human minds cannot conceive. That for which we may hope is, Paul asserts, revealed to us by the Spirit. Thus, our hope is not grounded in the limited possibilities that we can imagine but, instead, in God’s revelation of these deep things of God.  

John of the Cross recognised this, too. He described how God disabuses us of our fanciful notions, emptying our memory or imagination of those images by which we constructed our visions of heaven. This, too, is part of dark night’s transformation, a painful process that strips us of our inadequate bases for hope – whether for promotion at work, friends’ approval, or financial success – just as, in Matthew 20:20–28, the disciples were stripped of their hope for status in the kingdom. When our old images of God and of heaven falter and fail, false hope can give way to Spirit-revelation of what God truly has prepared for us. 

In the midst of our everyday lives and on our frontlines, what new or truer hopes might the Spirit want to reveal? 

Dr Chloe Lynch
Lecturer in Practical Theology, London School of Theology

What are the false hopes that you and the people on your frontline hold onto? How do these compare to Spirit-filled hope? 

 

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