Imagination and Hope in Psalm 131

This week, Dan Allender and Becky Allender conclude our series about the profound depths of rest we are invited to in Psalm 131. Dan hones in on the final passage—“Israel, hope in the Lord, now and forever”—which seems like a simple ending, but in some ways brings clarity to the whole Psalm. This is not the kind of flimsy, fleeting hope you might find in a greeting card.

Dan: “When we begin to talk about hope, it isn’t just some kind of mild-mannered, ‘I hope things get better’ whim, a mere fleeting desire. It’s really the depths of what our hearts most deeply, deeply long for—and that is the very presence of God.”

Becky: “Hope keeps me going. Hope brings hope—it enlivens me, it makes life worth living.”

Becky and Dan unpack some of the categories that make that deep, embodied hope different from a more superficial sort of optimism. They’re talking about the capacity to dream, to anticipate a future beyond present circumstances, and to endure even in the midst of suffering and disillusionment. They recall the process of building their home, with all the disruption and disillusionment that it entailed, and how returning to that initial spark of a dream helped foster the capacity for endurance.

Hope always dreams. It anticipates. It suffers. And it has the capacity to endure.

Dan: “Don’t have a naive view of hope that everything will work out. This is what we’re being invited by God to: hope in him requires our imagination, our eagerness, our suffering. […] If we’re actually being called by God to hope in him, then it has to be a full-bodied hope.”

Fostering that kind of enduring hope requires what we’ve been discussing throughout this series: quieting our hearts, turning from pride and haughtiness so that we may know new depths of calm. Becky and Dan reflect on particular practices that help quiet their minds so they can return to their faith in the goodness of God. For Becky, yoga has helped her develop a deeper, quieter strength that allows her to embody hope in new ways. Dan thinks of flyfishing, in particular a certain stretch of river that he has come to know intimately over the years; even imagining himself there opens his body to hope. And that—imagination—is crucial.

Dan: “You have to have something that allows your body to know peace, calm even in the midst of the disruptions of the day. […] You need to have the imagination of both your body and your soul taking in goodness.”

Toward the end of the episode, Dan reflects on the invitation that helps frame this whole series: What in your life holds the pleasure of the anticipation of heaven? Where do you see the goodness of God in the land of the living, and how does that allow your heart to hope even in the midst of trauma, disruption, and suffering?

Dan: “Whatever the Psalm is pointing you to, it really is pointing us back to what it is we’re most meant to enjoy in relationship with Jesus. A relationship with him is not ethereal, it is not so spiritual that it does not involve the things of this earth and the matters of our heart’s greatest delight. The more we participate in that, the more we are going to know peace.”