God of Hope: Human and Divine

Welcome to Lent. In these next seven weeks leading up to Easter, we will intentionally slow our hearts and minds and bodies so that we can reflect on who God is – especially in the midst of the tensions that exist within us and around us. And, as we do, we will discern God’s way in a polarized, hurting world; we’ll discover deeper layers of what it means to have a God of hope (Romans 15:13).

Remembering that hope is not worldly optimism where we blindly believe that circumstances will work out, we anchor ourselves in the truth that, as followers of Jesus, our hope is in a Person! He is our Rock, the firm foundation that holds us up even when life crumbles around us – so that in those moments when we wonder where God is, we can trust in His presence and power. We can recite Isaiah’s questions in our moments of doubt – in order to solidify our faith:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? (Isaiah 40:28a)
Strain your ear to hear Isaiah’s dismay as he implores us to remember who God is.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? (Isaiah 40:28a)
Lean in and allow Isaiah’s imploring tone to pull you into the truth of who Jesus is.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? (Isaiah 40:28a)
Breathe in deeply, giving the Spirit space to settle all your spiraling thoughts and emotions.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? (Isaiah 40:28a)
Yes, Lord! We do know – help us know You more!

Either-Or to Both-And

Centered and less scattered, we can set our minds on Christ. We can lift our hearts to Him. Thus aligned, the mind and heart work together as we seek God’s truth about who He is (Ephesians 4:23-24). The brain-fog lifts. The eye-haze clears. 

We allow ourselves to enter into the tensions that exist within us. For me these days, the tensions I wrestle with most center around my shifting role as a mom of adult children: not knowing when to speak -and- when not to speak. What to do -and- what not to do. When to step in -and- when to give them space to work it out themselves. 

I had so wanted this season of parenting to be less ambiguous: I step out; they take over. But each of our sons, in their own ways, have needed my husband and me to step in more often than I would have thought necessary. Maybe I expected it to be more of a clear-cut break because that is what books have told me. Or maybe because my husband and I launched into adulthood earlier, and seemingly easier, than they are. Or maybe because this generation truly struggles more than any previous one to overcome mental health, economic, and faith issues. 

Navigating these tensions has been difficult and, at times, consuming. So, when the world, at the same time, polarizes every possible topic, my mind and emotions feel torn in two all the time. The world wants me to be this or that. They want us to believe him or her – to choose a side on every single issue. When, most of the time, I see both ‘sides’ and land somewhere in the middle. I live in the gray when the world around me wants life to always be black. and. white.

Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

But as I read about Jesus, even the words that came right out of His mouth, I don’t see someone who sought to polarize or judge or label: 

  • Jesus commissioned His followers to disciple people in His ways, with His Word (Matthew 28:16-20). AND He commanded them to love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40). Both-and.
  • Jesus didn’t pick sides – He lived and taught grace AND truth (John 1:14). 
  • He hung out with the rich AND poor (Luke 7:36 and 18:35-43). 
  • He taught in the synagogues AND out among the people (Matthew 13:54 and 5-7). 
  • He loved well AND set boundaries (John 15:9 and Luke 5:16, Matthew 21:24). 

So, as I keep reading His words and studying His life, I feel the tensions within me release. I begin to understand why He told us that living in the world would come with much trouble (John 16:33) – because the world is full of fallen people and broken creation. I begin to grasp that while we are sojourning here on earth, we will get caught up in the world’s polarizing ways – unless we choose to follow the Way (John 14:6).

In choosing Jesus’ way, we learn to live in the tensions, rather than being split by them. We also become more compassionate and better able to see other people’s value as fellow image bearers.* But, here’s what Jesus was not – a pushover or a doormat. Jesus’ way is one of power and sovereignty (Matthew 28:18). He leads as king, not elected official (1 Timothy 6:14-15). He knows what is good and true and right, and He expects us to live out of those, uncompromisingly, for our good and the good of others (Proverbs 21:2-3).

Jesus’ way doesn’t leave room for polarizing contingencies. In His way of love, there is truth that anchors humanity together – not an embittered battle between ‘them’ and ‘us’ (Ephesians 4:12-13). He longs for all of us to unite with Him, to be one with Him just as He and the Father are one (John 17:21). He desires every human on the planet to come to believe in Him as Savior and Lord (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Therefore, He loves every single person He has created. And He wants us to do the same (Matthew 5:43-45). Even when they don’t think like us. Or look like us. Or have political leanings like us. Or stand on the opposite side of an issue from us. 

Over the last many years, I’ve been making my way through the mud of living in such tensions, trying to make sense of my feelings and thoughts. And, I’ve been relieved to discover that many others have been caught up in this same tug-of-war. They’ve gone before us, asking the hard questions and looking for ways forward. People like Madeleine L’Engle** have given us a way to see and navigate the world through a ‘both-and’ lens. They bring their faith in Jesus into their everyday lives, amid tensions that threaten to tear apart families, churches, and nation, in order to help us see that the narrow path is a nuanced one.* To live as Christ lived, we learn how to hold conflicting emotions and work through them. We learn how to step into subjects that typically divide, with people who are willing to listen and respect even if we disagree.* We learn to maneuver among all the ‘either-or’ options with a ‘both-and’ attitude – with grace and truth, with justice and mercy. And with a hope anchored in the person of Jesus.

Son of Man and Son of God

In fact, the One in whom we put our hope demonstrated for us what it looks like to live in paradox. When Jesus walked this earth, He was fully human AND fully divine – at the same time (Luke 6:5; John 20:28 and Hebrews 1:8; John 1:1 and 2 John 1:7).*** He was no demi-god, like Hercules. He was not 50% mortal and 50% immortal. Not even 70-30. Jesus was 100-100. I know. The math doesn’t add up. But in God’s economy, somehow, it does.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke do their best to bring the seemingly impossible, dual natures of Jesus to light. They each provide genealogies to outline Jesus’ earthly parents’ ancestries as proof that He came from humans – humans from the tribe of Judah, no less (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38). Matthew and Luke ALSO offer explanations for Jesus’ divine nature: He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:34-35). This miraculous, completely unique occurrence not only fulfills messianic prophecy but points us to the fact that Jesus was Son of Man AND Son of God.

Title: Virgin and Child. Date: 1660. Institution: Rijksmuseum.; Photo by Europeana on Unsplash.

As a human, Jesus knew heartache and hunger (John 11:33-35, 38; Luke 4:1-2); He experienced exhaustion and exhilaration (John 4:6; 15:11). He required spiritual replenishment and cared deeply for the people around Him (Matthew 8:24; 14:14). He walked and talked. He bathed and washed feet. He knew temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). He spoke of God as Father, often needing to get away and be alone with Him (Luke 5:15-16). And, He bled and died as all humans do.

As One who was fully divine, Jesus could heal a person who lay ill miles away and cast out a legion of evil spirits from a screaming man right in front of Him. The touch of His robe stopped internal bleeding while the touch of His hand brought back sight. His spoken word calmed a raging storm and raised a dead man to life. And, His oneness with the Father and Spirit meant that death could not defeat Him, so He rose to life on the third day, walked and talked and ate among His people for forty days, then ascended, glorified, to rule beside His Father in heaven.

Since His death and resurrection, people have argued and debated over this dual nature of Christ. Sides have been formed: “He’s human. No, He’s divine.” “He couldn’t die because He’s divine. No, He couldn’t resurrect because He’s human.”*** On and on the polarizing battles have waged, but in the middle of it all, Jesus has led His Church into the truth that He. Is. Both: Son of God and Son of Man.

God Our Hope

How beautiful it is that God would be so wise as to send a Savior whose very being models for us a way through all the tensions of life, all the polarities the world will demand of us. He loved us all so much to send His Son – who was as much divine as He was human – to give us both a new life here on earth AND an eternal one with Him one day. He has done this because He is a God of Hope. 

He wants to be the One we can look to each and every day – no matter what a day brings – to find the good and right path through the confusing and hurtful conflicts of this world. Because our hope is in a person, we live in the here and now with an expectancy that God will show up and help us through. We can know He’s proven Himself to be trustworthy throughout our collective history (think: Abraham, Moses, David) and even our personal histories – as we look back to see where God was working even when it didn’t seem like it at the time. This faithfulness never changes because God never changes. 

So even when wars, threats of wars, and earthquakes rattle our lives (Matthew 24:6), even when pandemics and politics divide the world, even when our personal lives feel pulled apart by all the tensions, there is ONE who stands unfazed: God. We have a God who knows what it is like to be us. We have a God who stands supreme. We have a God who is unbound by time, knowing the beginning to the end – and He loves us. He beckons us to put our whole trust in Him, to look to Him as our God of Hope.

Father God, how humble we are that You have called us your children – that You would send Your one and only Son to live and walk among us, to die for us. Oh, the love You show us is more than we can fathom, more than we could earn, more than we could ever give enough thanks for. We know in our heads that You are our God of hope, so we pray that You would help our hearts to align with this immense truth – because we want to always seek You first and most and best, full of trust. And hope. Lord Jesus, this season of Lent before us looms with reminders of what, exactly, You did for us. The pain You endured. The shame You carried. The sin You bore. The death You surrendered to. All for us. How grateful we are to have You, our Lord and King, as One who knows all that we feel and face – because You’ve lived this life. Holy Spirit, help us to remember that Jesus knows all the pain and confusion of living in such a polarized world. And through that remembering, may we allow You to fill us with your wisdom and mercy so that we can wholeheartedly step into each tension, trusting that Jesus will meet us where we are and help us navigate it. He equips us to be people who listen and love, who suspend judgment because we are fully forgiven, and who, by following the Way, learn to live in the tension of both grace and truth. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by 1 John 3:1; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 15:13; Matthew 6:33; Hebrews 4:15-16; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; John 1:14)

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

  • *Brad Strawn’s article informed and inspired much of my ability to articulate this “Paradox of Both/And.”
  • **Madeleine L’Engle is one who lived life intentionally within the both-and tensions. And her biographer, Sarah Arthur, not only captured this both-and nature of Madeleine but organized each chapter according to two of those paradoxes. A Light So Lovely^ is a book I’ve recently read and will pick up time and time again to help me remain less rigid in my own thoughts, opinions, and actions.
  • ***If you’d like to read more on Jesus’ two natures, I learned a lot from two Got Questions articles: article #1  and article #2 .
  • Of course we have a playlist! It’s packed with great tunes and lyrics that help us move into worshipful attitudes as we go about our days. They equip us with words from Scripture so that our minds are filled with God’s truths all day long. And some, like “There Is a Redeemer,” become our prayers.

Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:

  • The anchoring passage for this series is Isaiah 40:28-31. THIS IS OUR PLANTING OF HOPE, so each week we’ll settle into two lines of this passage, thus making our main rhythm for Lent sitting and steeping in this grouping of verses till we know it and it knows us.
    • So, this week ask Isaiah’s opening questions to yourself (aloud is effective!) as a way to shift your focus off your circumstances, feelings, and spiraling thoughts, moving them onto the One who is our hope.

      28 Do you not know?
      Have you not heard?
      The Lord is the everlasting God,
      the Creator of the ends of the earth.
      He will not grow tired or weary,
      and his understanding no one can fathom.

      29 He gives strength to the weary
      and increases the power of the weak.

      30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
      and young men stumble and fall;

      31 but those who hope in the Lord
      will renew their strength.

      They will soar on wings like eagles;
      they will run and not grow weary,
      they will walk and not be faint.

      Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV
    • Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others — especially as Easter approaches! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world! 

Featured photo by Ales Maze on Unsplash. Bits and Pieces photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash.
^ Affiliate link, with which I may earn a bit.

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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