“In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity.
In our doubt, there is believing; in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”
—Hymn of Promise (UMH 707) by Natalie Sleeth
To my way of thinking, even more so in my heart, Natalie Sleeth’s “Hymn of Promise” was one of the best new Christian songs of the past century. It offers a stellar melody and the lyrics are pure Easter faith. So why bring this up now? Because this song expresses a faith that speaks most poignantly to life in the midst of winter’s dark and cold, in those places seemingly frozen by doubt and worry and hopelessness. Things looking bleak to you? Feel like there’s no way forward or if there is a path it leads to a Jerusalem where rejection and pain and death await? If that resonates in your soul, then incline your ear to God’s song and turn up the volume. Trust your life journey to the God who raised up Jesus from the dead. Think the promise of springtime and new life is some cruel joke? Go look out your window, friend; listen to the trees and the flowers.
This hymn of promise is not really original to Natalie Sleeth. The words she expresses in her poetry spring from the bulb of the Christian New Testament. Christ’s death on the cross was not the end, but rather a new beginning. In the life of Christ God’s time—eternal time—became part of our time. The opposite of doubt is not scientific proof, but rather it is trust—faith—in God, trusting in something God alone can see.
In 1 John 4 we read, “God is love … there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…. We love, because God first loved us.” So it all comes back around to love. The Bible is a love-letter from God, the Hymn of Promise a love song. Yes, the flowers die in autumn as the cold and dark plunges us into winter. Yes, war and famine and earthquake and disease and death come knocking at every door. But we need not be afraid and we need not despair nor live without hope. God is love and God is with us and God loves us and God promises to raise us up, just as with Jesus. We can faith that; we can trust that. Need to see a sign, perhaps? Go look out your window—watch and wait. Better still look deep within the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Incline your ears to the good news, the gospel song of love God sings for you.