Margaret Clarkson was born in Melville, SK, in 1915. Her childhood was marred with juvenile arthritis, convulsive vomiting, scoliosis and debilitating migraines. Her parents, she said, had a “loveless and unhappy marriage” which ended in divorce when she was 12 years old. She suffered in her adult life through countless surgeries, unbearable pain and endless medical treatments. She died in Toronto, lost in a world of dementia, at the age of 93.
She was a school teacher, a poet, a children’s writer, an outdoor enthusiast and artist, but Margaret is most well-known, though, as one of the greatest Canadian hymn-writers of all time. Despite her physical infirmities and broken family relations, she embraced a vibrant faith in the sovereignty of God who calls his people into mission, as evident in many of her hymns, the most well-known of which are God of the Ages, History’s Maker and So Send I You. Hers was the music of missionfests for decades to come.
In a lesser known hymn, Lord of the Universe, she penned these words:
Lord of the Universe, hope of the world,
How your creation cries out for release!
Looks for you, longs for you, watches and waits,
Prays for your kingdom of justice and peace,
Maker, Redeemer, Triumphant One, come!
Writing from a personal experience of pain and brokenness, Margaret captures an important part of the Christian doctrine of hope. In the dark places of our life, we do not despair. The Lord of the universe extends deliverance to us in our darkest places. By faith, we believe it. In the words of John Calvin, “Hope expects that He will show us His veracity at the opportune time.”
We embrace hope. But what exactly is it we take hold of in this embrace? Is it an ephemeral glimpse that says, “If only…?” Is it a wink and a nod that reminds us to keep our chin up? Things will get better soon. A naïve optimism or a utopic longing?
Margaret’s 37-word description of hope is perhaps as complete and biblical as one could find. Our hope, as Christ-followers, is rooted in the Eternal One, who is himself the hope of the world. All the cosmos cries out for the King and his rule of peace and justice to appear. We embrace the coming of the triumphant one. The Apostle Paul said it this way:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?
In our work around the world, we encounter hope-filled people on a daily basis. Young people in China are seeking to know the God of creation. Vulnerable children in Africa, many of them in child- headed households, want to know the love of God and find hope for tomorrow. Aymara women in the Bolivian Andes are learning about redemption and forgiveness. Child soldiers in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo are discovering that their life can be made anew. Refugees from Syria and Iraq have been given reason to hope because of the love of a Christian community. Drug addicts are finding victory through Christ in Northern Thailand.
Each edition of Mosaic brings you a little closer to God’s work in the world. This issue focuses on embracing hope, with stories from across Canada and around the world. We are particularly honoured to welcome Ruth Padilla DeBorst, an esteemed Latin American theologian who has experienced times of deep hurt and darkness. She shares a biblical framework for hope, rooted in the truth that God in Christ suffers with us and is redeeming all of creation to himself. And this truth leads us to “step out of the values of our society, so ingrained in us … and into the lives of people who are oppressed and become channels of God’s light and life and love in their lives.”
In the dark places of this world, we bring hope. The New Testament reminds us that we are also called to explain the hope that is in us. As Margaret Clarkson wrote in the same hymn: “May we who know you obey your command, go with the grace of your gospel to all, bringing salvation and freedom and joy.”
“Hope is being able to see the light despite all the darkness.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)