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Hope Does Not Disappoint

The land of no consequence is behind us. We are in the land of no mercy now. Vanity of vanities said the Preacher. All is vanity and a striving after the wind. Life is hard. Of that we can be assured of. Life without hope harder still.

The prisoner voluntarily walks towards Madame la Guillotine, his head held high. The walk was long. It was lonely. Many jeered and taunted as he walked through the bloodthirsty throng of French Revolutionaries. Next to him stands a young seamstress who had turned to him for comfort.

"If I may ride with you, Citizen Evremonde, will you let me hold your hand? I am not afraid, but I am little and weak, and it will give me more courage."

As the patient eyes were lifted to his face, he saw a sudden doubt in them, and then astonishment. He pressed the work-worn, hunger-worn young fingers, and touched his lips.

Sydney Carton. A depressed and cynical drunk. Apathetic. His life filled with bitterness. Full of self-loathing. He frequently alludes to the fact that his life has been wasted, stating that he is a disappointed drudge. "I care for no man on earth, and no man cares for me."

When we are first introduced to him, Dickens' description is not at all flattering. "Careless and slovenly if not debauched." A significantly flawed man. Not the polished gentleman of Jane Austen's novels nor the near-perfect swashbuckling Scarlet Pimpernel devised by Orczy. Perhaps that is why we find his transformation later in life simply remarkable. Sacrificial even. A seemingly selfless martyr whose death enables the happiness of his beloved and, according to Dickens, ensures his own immortality. It is in some ways a realization that in offering his life for another of more worth, he could save from heartbreak those whom he loves most.

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

Even people with only the most cursory knowledge of the writings of Charles Dickens usually know about the opening to A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” But it’s the very last thoughts attributed to Carton, that register his faith at the end as a calm and soothing surety.

Hope does not disappoint.

The Son of Man voluntarily walks towards Golgotha, the Place of a Skull, his posture drooping under the heavy burden of the cross He carried. The walk was long and excruciating. It was lonely. Many jeered, taunted and cursed as His gait became unsteady while treading the dusty streets outside of the Old Jerusalem’s northern wall through the bloodthirsty mob. And as He breathed His last, hanging from a cross between two criminals, perhaps some even heard the poignant declaration of a centurion:

“Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Mark 15.39b

Despite the tears and wailings of those near and dear to Him, three days later their despair, and ours, turned to hope.

A selfless martyr whose death enables the happiness of all who follow Him and ensures their own immortality. It is most definitely a realization that in offering His perfect, sinless life for the worthless and ungodly, He could save from heartbreak and damnation those whom He loves most.

Yes, hope does not disappoint.

Remember the words of our Lord to His close companions and friends? His death imminent. Confused and saddened, they wondered where His path would lead Him to. And yet, He promised them, and us, that He would return again. And they would be with Him.

“In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

John 14.2-3

Yes indeed, hope does not disappoint.

In Romans, the apostle Paul uses a chain of reasoning to explain how sufferings we face produce hope.

…we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint …

Romans 5.3-5a

We need to understand that suffering leads to perseverance. Perseverance produces tested character. And finally character produces hope. Hope because we are being transformed into the character of people God demands.

Hope does not disappoint. It is living. It is transformative.

It’s the new birth made possible through our Lord’s selfless sacrifice and His resurrection. And so our hope in God and His promises should lift us up out of our past, present, and future difficult circumstances. So that we too may “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12.12)

Dickens’ remarks surrounding the death of Sydney Carton are profound and worthy of consideration:

“They said of him, about the city that night, that it was the peacefullest man's face ever beheld there. Many added that he looked sublime…”

Our living hope changes how we view life and eternity. It’s transformative. It produces an unfathomable peace that many cannot comprehend. It calls us to a higher standard of moral purity and excellence. The imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance awaits us.

Now, and forever, hope does not disappoint.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Romans 15.13

Abound in hope. Christ Jesus, our hope (1 Timothy 1.1). What a marvelous expression!