A trek through the Southern African bush is nothing, nothing, nothing like a day’s visit to the zoo. When one arrives at the zoo there are known expectations. The paved pathways are clear. Signposts point the way. A concerted and deliberate walk is required to reach each exhibit displaying African, Antarctican, Asian, Australian, North American, and South American animal species. However, unless one fails to see the guideposts, or one experiences an onslaught of terrible wind and rain and snow or one tires out before the end of the zoo visit, there is little doubt or concern that one will reach one animal exhibit after another after another. Customary ‘ooh’s and aahs’ are vocalized at different volume levels when one reaches the choice exhibit. Viewing delights abound in this contained space. Then, it is time to seek out another animal sighting – again, at specifically designed exhibit stations throughout the zoo grounds. There is no guess work. There is no wondering. There is little to no disappointment. A day at the zoo is usually a moment of fulfilled expectation and gleeful contentment.
Our family has lived in South Africa for close to twelve years. We have visited the Johannesburg Zoo three times and the Pretoria zoo one time. Both zoos exhibit a variety of animals – especially those of the African variety. Our boys have enjoyed their zoo experiences.
However, in our twelve years of living life in South Africa we have also discovered tremendous joy and sweet contentment in our family time in the bush. On 14 different occasions, we have ventured deep into the bush to relish its beauty, discover its rhythm, enjoy its quiet, and appreciate its animals. It is a time to unplug from our day to day responsibilities and experience rest.
When our family heads out on a game drive, there are no signposts that point the way to giraffes, kudu, zebra, eland, impala, waterbuck, jackals, warthogs, or even cheetah, leopards, lions, elephants, rhinos and cape buffalo. The bush can be very brambly, very prickly, very rough, and very thick. To encounter animals in the bush, one must be patient. Very patient. For one never knows what animal will appear around the bend…
Thus, if we begin our day drive and say, “We want to see a giraffe,” we have no guarantee that we will. None at all. For in the bush, the animals are free to roam and hunt for food at will in an expansive space. However, if we camp on the desire to see a giraffe and only a giraffe and we fail, there is no doubt that disappointment and disillusionment will result. You see, a hope that is not based upon rationale and reason will have its expectation left unfulfilled and broken.
A heart of discontent, discouragement, and even shame may develop from dashed hopes and frustrated dreams.
And yet, my friends, there is a hope that does not disappoint!
There is a hope that does not deceive or lead to shame!
This hope is found and grounded in the generous love of God, the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.
New International Version, Romans 5:5
Truly, the hope of Christ is established and built soundly upon the goodness, grace, and truth of God.
His love and care of us do not disappoint. Disappoint is founded upon the Greek transliterated word, kataischuno. Kataischuno means to dishonor, to disgrace, to put to shame, to confound, and/or to humiliate. When we hope for a giraffe sighting and we fail after hours of searching and hunting in the bush, we will probably feel disappointed and even a hint of shame to have put so much stock in viewing that one particular animal. We discount the majestic kudu, the abundant impala, the ‘face-that-only-a-mother-could-love’ warthog, the unique zebra, and any other African animal we were graced to see -because we wanted to find that one special giraffe.
In addition, we don’t wonder at the beauty of the mopane, the milkwood, the wild seringa, the umbrella thorn, lala palm, or any number of other indigenous African plants and trees. We fail to appreciate the outpouring of what is right before our eyes because we are focused on the ‘one-thing’ we do not see!
Such hope is not founded upon our God.
Hope is never put to shame in the heart of the Believer because one’s hope is in the generous outpouring of love we have in Christ – empowered by a personalized and purposeful Holy Spirit. The love of God is generous and expansive. And more importantly, this love is His own! He desires to pour His love into us like an inflowing stream which fills, permeates and floods our heart and soul with Himself! He is intimately and rapturously aware of who we are and what we need. He desires to fill us completely to overflowing with His great love!
Imagine how our view of life would change if we accepted and received this God-given truth!
Our hope is founded in the all-sufficient love of God – His very own love for us!
Our value and worth are founded in this love – that God sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you and for me.
If we embraced such a view, instead of looking for that one perfect sighting of a giraffe – we might instead say, “Lord, because of your generous outpouring love and care for me, what do you want me to view today?” as we head out on our game drive.
Friends, it may not be a giraffe that you are hoping to view or experience today. It may be something else – big or small…
A job offer
A conversation with a special some one
A bill of good health
A loss of those last ten-twenty pounds
A marriage proposal
A change of behavior in a child
A computer that stops freezing
A good grade
A new home
A vacation or holiday
A change in relationship
A new life direction
And yes, even a giraffe sighting
Friends, our life of faith in Christ and the hope that is ours in Him is generally more about living life in the bush – where beauty abounds, freedom reigns, love and grace flourish and wonders never cease – than about having signposts that lead you to consumer-driven contained and restrained zoo existence.
In the bush, we never know what is around the bend – and that’s okay. Because before, during and after that bend, is our God and His lavish outpouring of love for us. This is the abiding hope we have in Christ!
Truly, this hope is one that never disappoints – not ever. Our God is constantly pouring His love and care into every aspect of our lives; our thoughts, our passions, our desires, our affections, our purposes, and our endeavors.
What is required of us?
To receive His gracious love and experience the amazing grace and contentment that is ours because of this all-sufficient love.
This is the gift of hope!
And this is more than enough – and then – when we discover that giraffe in the bush – wow, oh wow, oh wow, oh wow! We appreciate this God-given sighting all the more!