The last word
I’m the kind of person who gets caught up in emotions. Look over at me in the cinema, and I’ll be the first one sobbing, shouting at characters under my breath, or with tears of joy in my eyes. A film, a book, a play… They all evoke an emotional response that takes a while to fade.
But it’s not just fiction. It’s the same with things that other people are going through – real lives colliding with suffering and violence. Watching the news. A phone call from a friend going through a rough time. Someone hurting in a way that doesn’t seem fair. Sometimes, the world weighs heavy on our emotions. Too heavy to easily shake off.
And I think sometimes that is the right response. The suffering of others often deserves to be felt beyond the moment in which we see or hear of it; to be shared by others in what small, limited ways are possible. Suffering is at its keenest when it also isolates us from others.
But what about those times when we’ve felt too much, and it wears us down beyond the point from which our emotions can naturally bounce back? If our reserves are low already, how do we make sure those emotions don’t sink us? We don’t want to reach the point of empathy burn out, but it also doesn’t feel right to numb ourselves to things that deserve an emotional response.
When everything around us might be telling us that something is a lost cause, it’s hard to feel hopeful. When we don’t have the answers to the questions that we so desperately ask. When we can’t remove all the hurt we see around us, however much effort we put in.
It’s then that we need to remind ourselves that the brokenness we experience in life does not have the last word. Emotions are changeable and fickle. They are subjective, react to external events and change dramatically from person to person. Too often the negative lingers longer than the positive. The experience of our feelings and emotions are valid and real, and they have an important role to play, but we can’t rely on them to tell us an unbiased truth.
Sometimes hope is something we need to practise and wrestle with, despite our emotions telling us otherwise. Because God chose to step into our chaos – not away from it. He chose to experience it, embrace it, interact with it and eventually, was put to death on the cross by it. Because going through it was the only way he could defeat it and win the last word. The last word that is love. The last word that is victory. The last word that is redemption and reconciliation and renewal. And peace – a peace that passes all our human understanding.
We live in the tension and impatience of waiting. We’re in the middle of a sentence and there is a confusion of emotions that belong there. But we hold on and look forward to that final word when all things will be made new.