Hope changes things; we who live in hope know this. But what we also know is that often, hope makes things harder.
It's not what you'd think. You'd think that looking forward to something, believing expectantly for the future, would make it easier to endure the present. It would re-energize you and re-focus your strength. Just a little bit longer that you have to hold on, just a little bit deeper that you have to dig. Just a little bit more and then glory breaks through. Shouldn't that be easier?
But it's not.
Ask the pregnant woman. The closer she comes to delivery, the more miserable she seems to feel in her own body. The things that she took for granted as just part of the process become intolerable as they near their completion. She doesn't understand how she can go one more day with swollen feet and little sleep and indigestion and bathroom breaks every five minutes as the baby pushes on her bladder. She becomes increasingly weary of the whole thing and is just ready for it to be over. Not because, as they so often think, she is tired of being pregnant, but because the hope of holding her baby is so very near.
Or ask someone who's been stuck in a broken body for far too long. An illness that has ravaged him down to his bones, doctor after doctor after doctor. He's pushed through because he's had to, and he was willing to do it as long as it takes. But now, he has a diagnosis and in two short weeks, he'll begin treatment that promises to alleviate his pain. All of a sudden, he feels every ounce of that pain once more. When it was something he had to put up with, he didn't, but now that he knows it's going away, it eats at him in his final hours. Now that he knows relief is just around the corner, he can hardly stand it. He doesn't know how he can make it another two weeks, despite the fact that he's made it fourteen years. It's impossible. Because now, he has a real hope that it won't always be this way.
Or ask someone in an abusive relationship. She's resigned herself to living like this, knows all the dangers, knows the trip wires that exist in her household. She's spent her adult life tiptoeing around them and making the best of it, standing by her man and presenting a harmonious front to the public when necessary. But now, she's made plans to leave. In just a few short weeks, she'll pack a few of her things and run out of there, never looking back. Because she's dreaming of the life she will live out from under his harsh thumb, she doesn't know if she can take any more time to plan. She wants to do it now. She wants to just go. She can't wait until it's safe; she realizes it's not ever safe. It gnaws at her until she can hardly stand it. Because she has hope for something better, and that makes what she has unbearable.
You see, when we think things just are the way they are and that we're stuck with them, we lock ourselves in. We do whatever it takes because that's just what it takes, and we don't honestly think much of it most of the time. It's just life. It's just our life. It is what it is.
But give us hope - give us a promise of something better, an expectation for more - and suddenly, we can't do this any more. We can't live like this. We can't take one more moment of this broken life. It's unbearable.
And that's why heaven changes the world.
Because when we know eternity is so much better than this, all the brokenness of this mess starts to eat at us. We can no longer live complacently, no longer just endure. It's not about getting by, it's about getting better. And we can do better than this.
Hope creates in us not only an expectation, but a dissatisfaction. We're not willing to settle. We're not willing to accept less, not when we know that more is within reach. It makes things harder, especially when we're still "stuck" here, when we still have to live in this broken place. But it's worth it.
Hope changes the broken places. It changes them through those of us who aren't content with them any more.
Which is why we need hope, even though it's hard.