A Call to Hope in an Age of Hopelessness
Hope is a great word. Maybe for you, it invokes a friend’s name or pictures of a blue and red Obama picture, but at its core, I think that hope is the thought, “Maybe things can get better” when we look around and think “Things are not ok.” It takes us out of a place of disappointment and sets us in a place of dreaming about a more promising future.
That’s a powerful thing indeed.
So I wanted to write this article on finding hope in the midst of a culture and world that would rather have us focus on what is bad and broken as opposed to what is good and being redeemed. I will present many of my ideas in the context of a Christian mindset, but I first want to address those of you who may not be Christian. Maybe you have seen the hurt that has gone on in the world, the way that disease, war, and selfish desire have taken hold and your response has been to step back and say that there is no God, or if there is, he is incredibly distant and is certainly not interested in having our best in mind. And to you I say…
“I get it.”
It is so easy to get discouraged, bedraggled and defeated when we look around. Corrupt governments, threats of war, and much more crowd our media headlines and scream a message of disorder, distrust, and decay every day. But I want to propose the idea that God is as sad and hurt about these things as you are. In fact, much more so.
If we look at the Bible (and you may think the Bible is fake or even a nice old book with some good stories and some bad stories, but bear with me) we see a few verses that say crazy things like “I (Jesus) came so that they can have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)” Or John 16 that has Jesus saying something so bold as
“Take heart, for I have overcome the world.”
And reading that, it’s pretty easy to think “What the heck?! If God was really for us and if He had really overcome the world, then why do we not see that as reality around us daily?”
This is a great question, and I’m glad you asked. However, in these questions listed above, we have fallen upon some of the largest stumbling blocks and hotly contested questions in the history of Christianity. But I heard someone once say
“Most people are one false belief about God away from complete surrender to Him.”
So, let’s take our time through this and see if we can shed some false belief.
In the Judeo-Christian perspective, we believe that God created man and woman in His own image. We believe that in the Garden of Eden, God and man had the perfect relationship. They walked together, talked together, and more. There was no shame, no guilt, no problems. However, the Bible teaches that man fell away from God by choosing independence from God. Adam and Eve had gotten deliberate instructions not to do something for their own good, yet they chose to do it anyway and essentially told God “I know better than you. I will do what I want.”
And while you may think, “It was one piece of fruit! Why are you so angry God?!” We have to see from the perspective of a deep relationship, even that of marriage. If a man told his wife that he was going to choose a selfish ambition over trusting his wife’s best intentions for him, it would not go over well! Their relationship would need some help and some serious questions would have to be asked; questions like “Do you actually love me?” or “Do you think I want bad things for you?” “Why do you not trust me?”
So from that time on, our relationship with God has been fractured. Humanity has often chosen to do what it wants when it wants to do it. Even if we know that what we are doing will not lead to our betterment, we will do what we want because it’s what we feel like doing. In these circumstances, we must realize that our own will has become our god. Meanwhile, God who has been present through it all waits for us to acknowledge Him, and return to Him. He aches for it and longs for our connection to be restored.
And some of you might get to this point and say that if God is present and “all-powerful” he should just stop us from doing bad things. But, going back to that marriage analogy, if your spouse told you how you should feel, how you should behave, and then forced you to do it, that would not go well either! There would be anger, frustration, and ultimately this would not be a picture of a loving relationship, but instead be one of a robot bending to the will of its master. Love happens in the process of making a choice. If you have a place to say, “I know that this would hurt my spouse, so I will choose to not do that”, that is an incredible picture of love because you are choosing your spouse’s best interest above your own.
The beautiful thing is this, God has chosen our betterment above his own. He sent His Son to do exactly what Adam and Eve could not do, and that is live a life completely surrendered to God’s will. Never once did He fall out of community with His father, and through his life, death, and resurrection, the divide between man and God was mended and a way for us to commune and walk again with God was re-established as we were meant to do in the Garden of Eden. So we daily find ourselves in this constant push and pull of either choosing independence from God like Adam and Eve did, or instead choosing to partner with God and bring the goodness, peace, and love of God to a world that desperately needs it, like Jesus did.
I think that it is here that we find the call of the Christian body. When Jesus said, “I came so that they can have life, and have it abundantly” He was inviting us into a path of bringing life, obedience, and sacrificial love back to a planet ransacked by people choosing independence from God. He beckons us to choose hope amongst a people who have no hope and who can only see the bleakness of the here-and-now, and have no dreams of the day when Christ comes again to make everything new and restored to its original intent.
So for those of you that do not know God and see no hope that things can get better, I will be honest and say that I don’t think it happens apart from Jesus and knowing Him. Because when I consider my own strength, I realize that I cannot manufacture hope on my own, life gets too hard. But when I consider someone who loves me no matter what, who always has my best interest in mind, and who invites me to be an agent of love, grace, and peace to a world that desperately needs it until He comes back, everything gets put into perspective quite quickly.
So in closing, consider this passage out of 2 Corinthians 1 which says
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On Him, we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
Hope, Grace, and Peace.