The iron door to the dungeon was tightly sealed. Only a trickle of light made its way through a small crack in the ceiling. The woman stood alone in the middle of the sealed room. Her name was Alice Benden, and she had been imprisoned inside England’s Canterbury Castle for her religious convictions. Under Queen Mary, who reigned as the English monarch from 1853-1858 and was dubbed “Bloody Mary,” hundreds of Protestants were put to death. Alice would end up being one of those. But as she sat in her cell, wondering about God’s presence for her situation, she recalled words of great comfort and hope, a verse from the Psalms: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
Alice’s circumstances certainly exceed what most of us experience even in our most trying moments of life. Yet the hope that she had is the hope and confidence that every Christian has in the middle of the darkest moments of life in this present world. As the hymnwriter says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness… On Christ, the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand” (ELH 197).
Is the year of COVID draining the energy supply from your tank? Are you becoming fearful of the future? Might you be tempted to wonder where God is while serious challenges face us, both as individual Christians and as ones collectively yearning for the full church attendances of months past? How will it go for our Lutheran schools and the learning environment for our children?
With all these concerns and far more, Alice’s hope in that prison cell is still the solid hope we all have to go on. And it will not fail us!
After all, sinners that we are – deserving of eternal execution by our God – the pardon for each of us has been granted by the shed blood of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. Alice knew this and drew strength from it for her moment of departure. You and I are also, by the power of God the Holy Spirit, to run to Scripture and find in the promises of God the same hope for our life and for our own departing moment, knowing that in Christ we indeed have it – eternally! The good news of our forgiveness of sins through Jesus and the assurance of never-ending life in heaven by faith in our Savior carries us through every challenge!
And remember an important axiom: True hope never gives more joy than in affliction.
“If God be for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave himself up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).
Rev. John A. Moldstad,