REV. DANIEL MEDINA
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Jehovah. (Psalm 130:1)
When I was young, I really liked to hike mountains. It was not the extreme sport where you use all the special equipment to climb, it was about walking trails and climbing hills. I also enjoyed going into caves and caverns to explore, to admire God’s creation and … maybe to impress others.
There is, in the proximities of the city of Chihuahua (Mexico), a system of caves and rocky formations that is called la cueva del diablo – the devil’s cave. My brothers and I used to go often to explore and spend our Saturdays there. We always felt respect and fear for this cave but not because of the name, diablo, but because of the jeopardy and adventure we found there. Entering and exiting of this cave took experience, courage, and time.
Sometimes life is exactly like going to la cueva del diablo. Problems, sickness, and worries can make us feel like we are in a cave and we require experience, courage, a lot of patience, and time to get out from these situations. Life is not a paved trail in a flat terrain. In this trail, there are hills going up and valleys going down. There may be clear ways but also there will be blurred paths and even detours. In life we may have times and situations that make us glad but also have times and situations that will make us sad. Life is just like that.
What is life? What do we know about life? Why do we live? Without doubt, these are the continual questions in life. Sometimes we may ask these questions when everything is well. However, we ask these questions more in the midst of suffering, sadness, evil, sickness, and despair. It would be interesting to ask Jesus, what is the meaning of life? What is my strength that I should wait? (Job 6:11). Jesus would not explain life; he simply would give us life itself. He said, I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly (John 10:10) However, even in the abundance of life given in Christ, we cannot deny that life has two sides: joy, sadness; health, sickness; laugh, weeping; peace, chaos; hope, despair. We cannot deny that the time comes when we all experience both sides of life. Nevertheless, how can we stand firm in life and overcome?
Sometimes life makes us feel like being slaves of despair. However, there is good news: there is new and abundant life in Jesus Christ. When we accept and live this new, abundant life in Christ, we not only form and work for God’s kingdom of justice and love, but we also live with hope, even in the midst of despair.
There are many people possessed with a spirit of sadness and a gloomy attitude. They are slaves of despair, spiritually dead, and have fallen into a feeling of constant hopelessness. They do not smile and have forgotten the deep joy of being alive. Sadness and desperation have become an experience of self-destruction. In the presence of all this sadness, despair, and anguish comes the risen Christ asking us, tenderly, the same two questions he asked Mary Magdalene, “why are you crying?” … “who are you looking for?” (John 20:15). No matter what the reason is behind your sadness or the cause of our despair, He will comfort you. He will wipe away your tears and lovingly will listen until you stop your wordless cry. The Lord knows of our tears and will gently see that each tear is dried to lift your face, then, to a new direction: hope.
Hope is the opposite of desperation. We can stop being slaves of desperation and become captives of hope. For those who trust the Lord, hope can be more than a mere desire, but a new perspective on life. This perspective is not only for the future but also for the present time in which Jesus is alive and active.
There can be peace in the midst of storms. Jesus tells us that in the midst of these storms of desperation: “It is I; be not afraid” (John 6:20). Despite the sad situations in life, we can overcome despair. What can we do when in despair? I recommend 1) recognize we are fragile and we need strength, this strength is Jesus; 2) give up greed to Whom was born, lived and died as humble; and 3) despite desperation, have an attitude of trust, gratitude and hope. God’s promise to all His children is the same, today as yesterday: Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
Even in the midst of desperation, all who trust in the Lord can stand in hope. In all of God’s children there is something that will last: their soul, their interior being. Only there, after all, can we expect to begin to find fullness of hope. Jesus Christ is the Lord of Hope; we can trust Him and, even in bleakness, find hope and love.
Returning to my adventures in la cueva del diablo: the entrance to this cave is in the top of a mountain and you may think, while inside, you are in the depths but you are only surrounded by a mountain. When you come out from the lowest point of la cueva del diablo you arrive at a beautiful valley without any extra effort. We might compare a journey through life with a journey inside la cueva del diablo. We may believe we are in real depths but we are only experiencing temporary depths, maybe with despair but also with hope. This hope is in Christ who invites us to fully trust in Him.
Hope and desperation, desperation and hope. We can choose between being a slave of desperation or a captive of hope. Life is just like that. Have you recently suffered some experiences that made you feel despair? What did you do about it? Did you become a slave of desperation… or a prisoner of hope? I hope you honestly said Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again —my Savior and my God! (Psalm 42:11) and He may hear you pray “O Lord, you alone are my hope.” (Psalm 71:5)
Rev. Daniel Medina serves as pastor of Nueva Vida United Methodist Church in Macon and associate director of Connectional Ministries for Hispanic Ministries.