We hear a lot of people talking about hope these days. But what does “hope” mean? You can get a tidy definition from the dictionary. But a definition isn’t the same as meaning. That often can only be experienced or observed. Tenth Avenue North has a new song called, “I Have This Hope.” Mike Donehey and the rest of the band had a very real experience that clarified the meaning of the word hope.
Story Behind “I Have This Hope” by Mike Donehey
Isaiah 43 says, “Fear not. I’ve called you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters. I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire it will not consume you. You will not be burned for I am the LORD your God the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.”
If I’m really honest, there are parts of these scriptures I don’t like. I don’t like that it says, “when you pass through the water.” I don’t like that I want it to say, “when you walk on top of the water.” I don’t like the part that says, “when you go through the fire.” I want it to say, “I’m going to lead you around the fire. It’s going to get hot, but not too hot.” But that’s not what it says. It says, “when you walk through them I will be with you in the midst.”
You know Jesus’ Name is Emmanuel. That means God is with us. He’s with us in the water, in the fire, in triumph, and in tragedy. Even though tragedy has a way of calling that into question, right? Tragedy hits and no matter what we’ve read, we say, “God I just don’t think You’re there. Where did you go?”
We just had a similar season of doubt, where we went through a trial. Our guitarist Jeff’s sister-in-law, Farris, who is 32 and has three kids, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. The Doctor’s are saying she could go to England for an experimental treatment and that the Chemotherapy is going to be so intense at least a year. And, we don’t know how to process this. We kind of reel back and we say “God how could you let this happen. How could you let a bad thing happen to such a good person.” You ever been there?
I was in the middle of questioning God about this when I felt like God questioned me. I said, “God why is this happening?” And He said, “Why do you call Good Friday, Good Friday?” I said, “What? What do You mean? What’s that got to do with anything, God? I’m asking You, why bad things happen and You’re asking me why Good Friday is Good Friday… What are you talking about?”
He just repeats the question “Why do you call Good Friday, Good Friday?” I said, “Cause that’s what they call it at church. That’s what they put on the calendar.” He said “I just want to remind you that Good Friday wasn’t the day when bad things happened to a good person. Good Friday is the day when the worst things happened to the best person. And you call that good? Maybe you call Good Friday, Good Friday because you know what happened on Sunday. But don’t forget, Good Friday was the worst Friday until Easter morning.”
So we wrote this song “I Have This Hope” for Jeff’s sister-in-law. We wrote it so that when she started chemotherapy she’d have these promises to listen to. We sent her the demo and she loved the song. Now fast forward three months.
Farris is supposed to have chemo for 11 to 12 months and three months later we’re in the studio about to record the album version of this song and she says, “I have to be there.” So, she shows up to the studio. Her hair is all falling out, she’s weak from the treatment but she sits down on the couch. Now, I’m not making this up. The day we’re going to hit record on this song she sits down on the couch and five minutes later she gets a text from the hospital saying, “The cancer is officially in remission.” BOOM, Mic drop!
Now, I know not every story ends with a miracle like that. I want to be sensitive to this. But, I also want to say that I believe that miracles are always possible. I want a faith that believes God is good even while I’m waiting for the miracle to happen. I want to believe that God is with me not only in my triumphs but in my tragedies. In my tragedies, I need to look to the cross and I need to listen to Jesus saying, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” as if to say even in my doubts, even in my questions, even there Jesus is with me.
I have this hope now, that Jesus is everywhere. He’s enthroned in heaven and He chased us all the way down into hell. He’s with us, always.
“For the most part, the things I see in Scripture are really not the promise of this plan working out a certain way, but it’s the promise of His presence with us through whatever happens. God doesn’t say, ‘You will be spared of tragedy.’ He says, ‘Tragedy won’t crush you; it won’t overwhelm you; it won’t consume you. I am with you.’” – Mike Donehey (Tenth Avenue North)