From The Elders study October 2014

God of Surprises – from an elder’s study
For 1.6 million Scots their hopes, and their dreams, were bitterly crushed on September 19th. What a bleak day for so many people looking forward to so much!
What are you hoping for?
For many of us our hopes for fulfilling jobs, university places, better health or just hoping for a break, are feelings that can drive us on or weigh us down depending on which way our life seems to be headed. There is nothing wrong with hopes like this. In fact we need worldly hope. Worldly hope and aspiration are part of our human nature, which as we are told is based on the very nature of God himself.
Since late July our Sunday morning sermons have focused on The Christian Hope. But the Christian Hope is not a hope that does away with worldly hopes or trialling situations. It does not somehow replace my hope for a job by a “holy hope that God might do something”. No, the proper place for the Christian Hope is right alongside our desires, aches and yearnings in this world and for this world. The Christian Hope is not “pie in the sky when you die” it is God being intimately involved in this world, your life and your difficulties.
In particular Ken Livingstone’s sermon on Hope in the Wilderness reminded me of God’s commitment to us in the tough times. In his book God of Surprises, Gerard Hughes describes how we are all in a wilderness at some time in on our lives, but these can be formational times when God shapes us and does a new, often uncomfortable, thing. Hughes describes the God of the wilderness, whose ways are not our ways, whose thoughts are not our thoughts, who will not be domesticated or confined to the space in our lives where we would like him to remain. He will not be controlled. It is only by going to these wilderness places, on the edge of our comfort zones and facing up to the hard questions, doubts and broken hopes, that God can touch us at an even deeper level than we have hitherto known. In this way, he remains the personal God, the God who Abraham and Isaac knew, the God you can increasingly know yourself. He remains the God of Surprises – and the God of Hope.
Chris Goswami