27 Oct Solid Hopes & Imaginary Friends
That’s not air you’re breathing, that’s hope. Trust me, your every inhale is drawn wishing for a better some Thing, every exhale hoping that your freshly oxygenated blood will drive you into a more glorious reality in the next moment than the present. Everyone lives on hope. Big hopes and small hopes, but hopes nonetheless. We hope that we will make something of our lives and we hope that dinner will turn out ok. In fact, it’s hard to find a single thing people do that’s not motivated by some sort of hope.
And here’s the truly strange thing about us humans: We are indomitably hopeful, even when it makes no sense whatsoever to hope. Ask someone if they think their life will be better in 5 years than it is today and you will likely hear an “Of course!” or a “You better believe it!” or maybe even an “I sure hope so!” This is true even if they have no reason as to why this will be the case. People are creatures of hope.
But why? How can this be when we absolutely do not live in a hope-inducing kind of reality? We’ve all lived those moments that sweep away all your hope in a second and make you feel skeletally empty. Maybe you’ve walked through the cities of Cambodia and seen the empty-eyed girls, no more than 16, working street corners, trapped in a brutal sex trade. Maybe you’ve seen the images of a water-logged toddler, drowned and motionless on an indifferent beach, victim of an unsuccessful bid for escape from political oppression. Maybe you’ve just experienced the everyday, vanilla erosion of hope as nothing satisfies deeply or permanently.
The question we need ask is simply this: Is there solid hope out there in this wide world, a hope with some substance and longevity? There are really only two possible places to find hope like this.
The first place to look for it is inside. Create your own hope or find it in a world of cities and stuff and careers and cash. Find hope in fulfilled dreams and the aggregate of pleasures felt and pleasures future. Billions of people live this way. If you ask them if they are hopeful, they will say yes. If you ask them why, they will point to something inside themselves.
This kind of hope turns out to be an imaginary hope, a wished-for something rather than a yet-seen reality. See, the great un-talked about, hope-killing inevitability that makes this hope imaginary is death. There is no man-made hope that can defeat death. Imaginary friends are cute when our kids have them, but they can’t save you when death and suffering is ringing your doorbell.
Maybe you would respond with something like that twenty one pilots song that says, “Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit.” Ok, so it’s the oncoming freight train of death that drives you to work and sweat and rest and think and create and make something of yourself. Fair enough. But if death is forever and we are the accidental product of the hopelessly neutral collision of atoms in a meaningless world, then how does a 75-year life lived with hustle rescue solid hope? If our beginning and our ending is hopeless and meaningless, how is the short bit in the middle enough to make hope anything more than a fairytale?
The other possible place we can look for hope is in a hope hung on infinite hooks rather than created things, including created us. For the Christian, hope isn’t merely a changeable emotional state or an indefinable longing divorced from reality. For us, hope is living, eternal, concrete, and personal. Our hope is Jesus. Listen to 1 Peter 1:3-7:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Our hope isn’t hung on anything less than the immortal, merciful, death-defeating, soon-coming Jesus. Peter says that our hope is hope of a joyful and heavenly inheritance. This means that we can live hopeful lives in hopeless world, because our hope isn’t from that hopeless world. And notice that Peter doesn’t pretend as if this hope precludes trial and suffering. It doesn’t. But it’s a poor hope that can’t keep you through suffering. The hope of Christ is that even in the midst of crushing trials and a world full of suffering, we have an inheritance of indestructible joy that is kept in heaven, a hope that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” Essentially, our hope can only die if Jesus can. It can only be lost if Jesus can be dethroned. That some Thing we were longing for turned out to be a Person, and that person turned out to be for us, and that Person turned out to be immortal and all powerful.
Good news, I know.
So if every person born under the Sun is hoping for some Thing, and we have found that some Thing, what does that mean? It means we need to act like the master’s servants in Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast, who went out into every highway underpass and hopeless place with the free invitation to a great party. We reach out with hands full of solid and inexhaustible hope. Won’t that kind of solid hope change things for hopeless people in a hopeless world?