Life always has a measure of routine about it, but this… this is different. Never before has every day been so much like the one before it. Never before have the days drifted together like this. Never before have we woken up only to wash, rinse, and repeat over and over again.
There is routine, and then there’s this whole other level. At least for me, it’s gotten to the point when I look for a reason to take out the trash, change a light bulb, or run some kind – any kind – of errand. Just to break things up, if only for a few minutes. And yet even in this time – this time of absolute monotony – there may be something redemptive. The dullness of monotony can actually have a sharpening effect. Perhaps an illustration might help here.
If you have a knife in your kitchen that has become dull from overuse, then you probably have some kind of sharpening tool in a drawer you can get out and make short work of the job. But for hundreds of years, people have not used such sharpening tools, but instead used ordinary, flat stones to do the work. Of course, it takes a lot longer, but a knife can be sharpened by the smooth dullness of rock given enough time and perseverance on the part of the one doing the sharpening. The same thing is true with our hope.
Hope, it seems, has a way of becoming dull despite the fact that “hope” ought to be on of the hallmarks of the Christian:
- Be strong, and let your heart be courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord (Ps. 31:24).
- Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God (Ps. 42:5).
- Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer (Rom. 12:12).
- Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13).
The hope we have is much more than a pie-in-the-sky kind of optimism; it is sure and certain because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s the hope in what Jesus has done on our behalf, and where He is leading us, that should permeate everything we do. And yet that hope does indeed have the tendency to become dull.
Sometimes it becomes dull because of our circumstances. That’s certainly the case right now. We are caught in this cyclical rut and though there might be a little light at the end of the tunnel, it’s frankly a long tunnel. Any time we find ourselves in circumstances that threaten our dreams, our security, or perceived future it’s easy to have our hope dulled.
Ironically, though, true hope is not only dulled by difficulty; it’s dulled by prosperity. If we are financially and socially able to provide ourselves with not only everything we need, but also everything we want, then our hope can quickly become dulled. After all, what do we need to hope for if we have everything already? Why would we want heaven if we have constructed for ourselves the best idea of what our own heaven is already?
Like a knife in a drawer, our hope can get so dulled that it no longer cuts through the temporary pleasures of the world or the temporary sufferings the same world brings us. So how do we sharpen that knife?
Perhaps it’s through monotony. Perhaps it’s through the dull rock of routine that our hope and therefore desire for something more actually gets sharpened in our souls. As we do the same thing, day after day, here is a chance for that dullness to sharpen the reality of something more. But let’s be careful here, friends, to make sure the right kind of hope is being sharpened. That is, let’s make sure that ultimately, what’s being sharpened is not just our desire to sit in a restaurant or go to a concert or hang out with friends. These are good things, but they aren’t the best thing.
The dullness of monotony can sharpen our hope. But may it be that this sharpened hope is the hope that looks even further than the end of quarantine. May it be that the hope is not just to escape our homes, but to escape it all, and be with Jesus.