Hope is like a necessary fuel for life in a fallen world. Life quickly becomes a miserable business for the person who loses hope. Could we say reaching for hope is both intuitive to humanity and reminds us that we were made for more than this life?
C. S. Lewis had more than a few things to say about this.
“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.”
“At present we are on the outside… the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the pleasures we see. But all the pages of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get “in”… We will put on glory… that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.”
“We do not want to merely “see” beauty – though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” (Mere Christianity).
This world is not large enough and simply does not possess what is necessary to quench the deepest longings of the human heart. When we try to make it our home, it turns on us; it disappoints and frustrates our sense that we were made for something better. There’s never enough and it’s never quite the way it ought to be.
Of course, not everyone experiences this with the same intensity. Endless distractions and even unfinished bucket lists can suppress the dreadful thought that the pursuits of this life might only be “meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
“… the realities of life have a way of ganging up on a person with shallow assumptions. Something almost always comes along to shatter the dream and raise the issue of meaning for them.”
“The reason for this is simple: Happiness based on worldly security alone is endlessly vulnerable to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune which may come in the form of illness or inflation or the loss of a loved one. There are all manner of threats to the meaning of our lives both internal and external which can conspire to destroy it if it is inadequately grounded” (Clark Pinnock).
What the Christian faith offers us is a structure of deeper meaning based upon the love of God the Father — which is not vulnerable to destruction (see: Romans 8:38-39).
The apostle wrote of those who set their minds is on earthly things.” In contrast, he wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:19-21).
The apostle made this arresting statement: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (I Corinthians 15:19).
Hope inspires us to press on in the face of distressing and discouraging circumstances. Christians locate their hope not in a religion but in a personal Savior, Jesus Christ (I Timothy 1:1). The wonderfully deep mystery we experience is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We share in the “hope of eternal life” and, we are “heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2;3:7); born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (I Peter 1:3).
“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25).
What a treasure it is that, “….through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Our hope is meant to be contagious, especially when it appears incredulous. This was the case for the persecuted Christians who were encouraged to set apart Christ as Lord in their hearts and “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15).
The Christians hope is structured deeply in a fixed narrative. Let us ask and answer the following:
“Where is there a hope large enough truly to overcome death? Is there hope encompassing enough to enable us to know that all our pain and suffering has not been in vain? How do we bring together the contrary oracles (raised in Ecclesiastes) concerning both the vanity of everything and the eternity that God has placed in our hearts?”
“Human beings need to orient their lives by means of some sort of comprehensive perspective that helps them comprehend life’s particulars. Our profound yearning can be met only by a spacious narrative, personal enough to help us find our particular place in it and enduring enough to make that place significant.”
“The Biblical chronicle of the Triune God is the perfect narrative to empower us to envision the meaning of our lives. The Scriptures enable us to discern our most profound longings expressed or not), to name who human beings are and what we want to do, to fathom even more clearly who God is, and to perceive how all these things connect. It is a meta-narrative large enough, thorough enough, and promising enough to give us the hope we need to live courageously in the midst of an unbalanced, technologically driven, co-modification-distorted world.”
“The Bible offers a grandly sweeping meta-narrative. That is one of the thrills of reading scriptures, for they paint an account of God’s action on our behalf from the beginning of the world to the culmination of God’s purposes in the recapitulation of the cosmos” (Marva J. Dawn, Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an affluent Society).
Christians recognize four main events as the structure for their worldview. Together, they encompass all of reality and provide hope for the future (Shaped in the formation of a smile for the restoration of joy)
Each pillar in the Biblical account addresses a specific reality of the world and a specific question in our hearts. Together, they offer the most comprehensive and satisfying account of life in this world.
1. Creation: the good–Where did we come from?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:1.26-27,31, NIV).
2. Fall: the evil—What went wrong?
To Adam he said, “Because you …ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (NIV). “When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” “… people’s thoughts and actions are bent toward evil from childhood. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT). (Genesis 3:17,19; Romans 5:12; Genesis 8:21; Romans 6:23)
3. Redemption: the new—Is change possible?
“There is no other God but me–a just God and a Savior–no, not one! Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” (NLT). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ …19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. ….God made him who had no sin to be sinfor us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:19-21, NIV).
4. Restoration: the perfect—Is there hope?
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:1-5, NIV, see also: II Corinthians 4:16-18; Romans 8:18,35-39).