A few days ago some banal happening triggered an old memory—the lyrics to a semi-popular song from the culture of the late 1960’s. I think it was a Broadway musical production. But it got me to thinking:
If the soul is darkened by a fear it cannot name
If the mind is baffled when the rules don’t fit the game
Who will answer? *
While much has changed in the details of everyday life during the last four decades, that poignant query endures (although now, the soul can most likely name specific fears that darken it). The point of the whole piece demands that somebody somewhere—with sufficient concern and authority—step forward to do something about this messy, macabre world. The songwriter in the Sixties was looking for hope—not a weak, forlorn “I hope so” but a rock-solid, you can depend on it, accountable, authentic, confident hope.
That kind of hope is what believers in Jesus wake up with every day. We call it the “Blessed Hope,” based upon Titus 2:13: “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” While we don’t grasp all the details of the future between now and Christ’s appearing, we know the ultimate end. Good is triumphant over evil; life is triumphant over death; the creator/redeemer God of Scripture is victorious over the would-be usurper, the abominably evil dragon—the devil.
But what if you don’t wake up with that foundational truth as the major part of your worldview? What if, as Ephesians chapter 2 asks, you are without hope, aliens, strangers and without God in your world—cut off from the promises of Scripture? My own answer is that without the confidence of the ultimate victory (hope) described in Scripture, the time between now and the inevitably dismal alternative is pointless. Scriptural hope is absolutely crucial to an ultimately meaningful life.
Hope in political leaders eventually leads to disillusionment and cynicism. Hope in scientific developments leaves us always needing more. Hope in technology does little to fix broken hearts or shattered dreams.
Most people these days don’t spend much time in such contemplation. It is simply too painful. Instead we Westerners distract ourselves with various lesser gods of our own making. Note the lower case “g,” for gods that we can control, manipulate, ignore or otherwise trifle with. We medicate our fears with various potions from too much food or too many prescriptions or other harmful substances. We placate our loneliness with relationships that wax and wane with the peripatetic isobars on the daily weather map. In that realm, life is increasingly drained of meaning. And a life with less and less meaning realizes ultimately less and less value. Despair is the bottom line to a life without hope.
Assuming that you and I have embraced and experienced God’s blessed hope, what is our responsibility to those who don’t have it? And more to the point today: Can I share the hope that drives my life as a follower of Jesus Christ in such a way that those around me are encouraged to find that hope for themselves? If I can, I must. There is no other option. Our neighbors need what we have.
As 2012 unfolds, I can predict for you some blood, sweat and tears; such is the reality of life. But I can also promise you—on the strength of God’s word—His hope to defeat your despair, His joy to outlast your gloom and His love to warm any icy indifference. You can have life and you have it abundantly in Jesus.
With that in mind, I wish you each a Happy New Year!
*from “Who Will Answer?” By Ed Ames