Hope seems to evade us. We desperately hope that our loved one would get cured of that debilitating ailment. We hope our relationships would get better – “She would forgive me and things would get back to normal”, we mutter to ourselves. We hope tomorrow would get better, that the government would do as they promised during the elections and indeed, suddenly maybe, everyone would have an abundance of whatever they desire. Unfortunately, these pan out negatively. That precious person isn’t cured, the relationship not mended, the government more of the same. Then comes the heartbreak – there is nothing to hope for. It’s all gone, dashed and lost!
I recently hung out with a precious group of friends and prying into our individual lives, the current happenings of our time took centre stage in our discuss. From social to political, to religious and economic recesses, we unanimously concluded that we – mankind – are bereft of any inkling and capacity to save ourselves. As one peruses the various media outlets – TV, radio, print media and the Internet – what apparently pervades and filters through the whole system seldom, if at all, evokes any sense of hope. From bombings, pain, famine, diseases, injustice, wickedness and their numerous progenies, human history has been in the words of Lewis, “a long terrible story”. It warns us to “never, never pin your whole faith on any human being: not if he is the best and wisest in the whole world”.
We have made breakthroughs in science and technology. We have doubled the average lifespan and improved medically. At the other end of the pole, we have the threat of nuclear weapons and proliferation. In the long run, it is hopeless. Man, the glory and shame of creation. Of course, it is apparent that if there can be any Saviour for mankind, he has to be one from outside.
OPTIMISM VS HOPE
A writer defined optimism as “the non-empirical belief that positive circumstances will result from uncertain or even negative circumstances.” I may be optimistic that he would get better, but the problem is that sick people die. And a lot of us have been in such circumstances. They are like the pendulum that swings back and forth; no one knows where its point of rest would be. Circumstances fail each and every one of us.
There could be two ways to interpret this. Either one concludes that God is apathetic to our needs, malevolent, incapacitated or simply nonexistent. On the other hand, one could hold unto a living hope that transcends our current circumstances. This sort might look trite and wishful thinking, but it isn’t.
A LIVING HOPE
Writing to a group of first century Christians in Asia Minor, Peter reminded them of a living hope in which they believed. It is noteworthy to state that the circumstances in which they found themselves were not those that breathed hope. They were beleaguered by overbearing bosses, derided by unbelieving spouses, ridiculed by skeptical neighbours and associates, and threatened by the possibility of a much more violent form of persecution.
There is, in itself, nothing wrong in hoping for the best. Life is not as predictable as we would desire as we are immersed in uncertainties, and here lies the difference between optimism and a living hope. At a point, we need to see what we hope for, and what/who we hope in. The latter ought to supersede the former.
Peter didn’t promise the persecuted Christians a friendly government coming to power – the unpredictability of man would have made that unrealistic. He doesn’t promise them materialistic blessings that would replace the hardships and sufferings they faced. He never promised them that someday all their friends and family would embrace the faith, putting an end to the ridicule and flak they faced. Instead, he pointed them to a person in whom all their desires could be met. Peter knew what it meant to get ones optimism dashed. He had hoped his Master would not have to go the way of the cross (Matthew 16:22); however, it panned out differently (Matthew 27:35).
In the words of Peter, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). The crucifixion of Christ was a berserk and unjust event that God transformed into the greatest news of history – the only good news for mankind. Peter reminds them of a living hope bracketed by the resurrection and an inheritance unfettered by circumstances.
The Christian hope is based on the historical resurrection of Christ. And it reminds us that God has neither abandoned nor forsaken us, but is always with us and works with, and within us. Our future inheritance can neither perish nor fade. We have a future – a guaranteed inheritance.
As Christians, we might not receive that which we hope for, but we can be certain that He who we hope in is always with us and in the end, our desires and hungers would be satisfied when we stand before Him. Quoting Lewis once again, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”. A world where there would be neither tears nor pain.
Christ is mankind’s sole Saviour and in Him alone can we hope.