From Lament, to Hope and Action

The fact is that people who survive dire and desperate situations are not those just stay put while waiting for a rational answer. Neither do they just lament and wait for commiseration (romantic sigh of relief), whether from counsellors or from God. Well, unless they come the socially privileged class and therefore never have to fend for themselves all their lives. Not surprisingly, they are at a loss, not knowing what to do. Those who survive are those who refuse to give up. Instead, they overcome the temptation to resign to their fate and do what it takes to survive.

But what is it that spurs these survivors into action? NTW indicates that his book Surprised by Hope (p. 303) is an ongoing conversation with Jurgen Moltmann & Wolfhart Pannenberg. Moltmann (and Erich Fromm) concluded from their observation of German prisoners of war in WW2 that prisoner who do not have hope just give up and die. Moltmann wrote his classic Theology of Hope (which remains his best work) that “If faith thus depends on hope for its life, then the sin of unbelief is manifestly grounded in hopelessness.” He adds,

Hope finds in Christ not only a consolation in suffering, but also the protest of the divine promise against suffering. If Paul calls death the ‘last enemy’ (I Cor. 15.26), then the opposite is also true: that the risen Christ, and with him the resurrection hope, must be declared to be the enemy of death and of a world that puts up with death. Faith takes up this contradiction and thus becomes itself a contradiction to the world of death. That is why faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it (Theology of Hope, pp. 21-22)

It is hope, especially hope that God will fulfill his promise to deliver his people, that spurs people to persevere & survive. It is only natural that we bring our lament to God when we feel overwhelmed by the current coronavirus crisis. But praise be to God that lament in God’s presence will eventually lead to action, one step at a time.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) is not a trite or simplistic answer, but is God’s definitive answer to our bewilderment in the midst of predicament. In this regard, it seems that N.T. Wright ended his counsel prematurely in the article published in the Time Magazine (29/03/2020).

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