My friend Ken called me a few days ago to share bad news. The doctor told him he has incurable cancer. No particular time frame was mentioned and of course, there are counter measures to take. But it’s clear that from now on, Ken will fight a battle. As we talked, I struggled for positive, encouraging words. None came. Ironic isn’t it? I’ve been a follower of Christ for decades, I’ve graduated from seminary, served in church ministry, and after the conversation my gut reaction was… WHY GOD? IT JUST ISN’T FAIR! I expected to have something more spiritually significant and theologically profound to say. I didn’t. Even the timing seems cruel. Here it is, a few days before Christmas, the day we celebrate the Hope of the world and Ken’s news inspires hopelessness. But is it? Along with managing a copywriting/marketing/communications business, I serve part-time as a pastor to Adults 55+. It includes visiting many people in the hospital dealing with various health conditions. I’ve witnessed healing. I’ve witnessed death. And here are some things I’ve observed about hope. If you Intellectually Reject Hope…You’re Probably Healthy Several weeks ago I attended a panel discussion between an Evangelical Christian and an Atheist. It was a healthy, civil dialogue between two attractive, intelligent young people. Both presented reasonable arguments supporting their position and the debate, though passionate, was respectful. There was humor, good natured teasing, and great interaction. It was an engaging encounter that was intellectually stimulating. But that’s all it was—intellectual. It’s not that way when I visit people in the hospital dealing with life and death. Civility is gone. Intellectualism is stripped away. Raw emotions are out in the open. It comes down to one of two things: Either you have a sense of hope and certainty about where your life is headed, or you don’t. Yes, there are varying levels of intensity in these feelings, differences in attitudes, and degrees in level of assurance. But there is a clear separation between the two. I’ve seen people so confident and assured in their faith that they joke on their death bed. And I’ve seen uncertainty and fear in the eyes of those with none. You may shrug your shoulders with a cavalier attitude now and say it doesn’t matter because you don’t believe any of it. Or you may fill your life with other things so you don’t have to think about it. But when the time comes, to everyone I’ve visited—it matters. You deal with it whether you want to or not. And either you have hope or you don’t. Every Hope Has Its Reason Hope is a matter of faith. And faith is a spiritual/religious concept. There’s no getting around it. And there’s no getting away from it either. Unless you have died and seen the other side, are confident it was not a hallucinogenic or UFO experience, then you can’t know for sure what happens. You have to approach it on faith. What I can say is that hope is always grounded in a source. I stake mine in the Bible and most of the people I hang with do the same. I realize there are other choices—this one just makes the most sense to me. The people I encounter with little, or uncertain hope, usually stake it on personal merit. They say things like, “I’ve tried to live a good life. I’ve tried to do the right things.” And in reality, they are often decent people that live good lives and do the right things. But they have this nagging doubt because they envision this cosmic scale of justice where God weighs all their good deeds against the bad ones to determine eternal outcomes. It’s hope placed in a hope. Does my good outweigh my bad? I’m not sure and since it’s my human nature to remember all the good and forget the bad, I’m suddenly a bit nervous about the prospect. And I have to wait until God does the weighing to find out? That’s not very hopeful. So now they’re facing life and death and they’re wondering if they explored all the options. Was there an opportunity for more assurance? I’ve seen this worry in their eyes. It’s pure panic. Hope Is More Than Wishful Thinking I try to explain to people that hope is more than Pinocchio’s “When you wish Upon a Star.” It’s not this vague sense of well-being based on warm, fuzzy feelings that have no base in logic. And it’s not just for those of limited intelligence either, although I certainly don’t claim to be the sharpest crayon in the box. Some of the greatest minds in the world profess the same hope that I do. I find this reassuring. In case the cruelest cosmic act of fate is true—Christianity is all a big hoax and my hope is dashed—I take comfort knowing a lot of sharp crayons were also fooled. The point is, I’ve conducted a thoughtful evaluation of evidence. To me it makes logical sense. But I can only take it to a point. I have to take a step of faith. When you take that step…that’s where you find hope. My friend, Ken agrees. He’s an engineer with an exceptionally keen, logical mind. And I like the fact that he agrees. It makes me feel smart. Ken and I share the same faith so we’re able to face life and death with a sense of confidence. We still don’t like the news. But we face the future with hope. How about you? Let’s hear your story of hope.
Let's Keep In Touch!
Join my list and I'll notify you of new blog posts and send you a monthly newsletter. It features inspirational thoughts, writing tips, and a peek into writing projects. I'll also include my article: Exaggerate to Make Your Presentations Funny. It shows you how to punch up presentations with humor and make them more compelling.
Follow Us Socially
- God’s Path To Greatnessby Chip Tudor
- Jesus Casts Out Mental Demonsby Chip Tudor
- How Jesus Describes Righteous And Unrighteous Peopleby Chip Tudor
- What Does It Mean To Be Born Again?by Chip Tudor
- How God’s People Navigate Troubled Timesby Chip Tudor
Chip and Ken,
Some interesting thoughts and some personal experiences comes to mind when I read this article. I think back over my life and recall all of what has happened in my life. Some good, great, bad and really unpleasant experiences. I can only go on believing that God knows every second of our lives. I can associate where God has interviened and where he hasn’t probably because I had never surrendered it to Him. I too, working in the medical field have witnessed my share of people dying before me, have known that they were about to receive some very bad news. The only thing I can recall is, Did they or do they know Christ. Several years ago, I myself was faced with a serious medical condition and having to endure a surgery that could have had different outcomes. My children were young and my ex-wife was in no condition able or willing to take care of them if something should have gone wrong. So, I was fearful not only for myself but them as well. A lot of sleepless nights before the surgery. I would awaken in the middle of the night, sit in the livingroom with my Bible and read. Wherever I opened is what I read. It comforted me and seemed to be exactly what I needed. I had met with our previous Senior pastor and he told me no matter what, Jesus is and will be with me on the operating table. Wow, what an impact. That is my Hope. My fuel for life….that Jesus is always there just as he promises. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So, Chip, Ken I can’t answer the why. Life is hard, short and full of hardships. God uses us to help one another. You both have truely blessed my life, encouraged me in some way. No matter what happens you both, because of your Faith, know where this life will end up. There will be such rejoicing. Without that Faith and Hope we have nothing and Life is meaningless. With True Brotherly Love,
Great thoughts, Bob. Inspiring to know that in spite of many personal difficulties, you’ve discovered that God is faithful and you’re able to share the hope that is found in Him.
You speak of experiences many of us do not have – being at the deathbed and witnessing hope in the moment it matters most.
Would a different phrase capture the reality of the section titled, “If you Intellectually Reject Hope…You’re Probably Healthy?” My problem is the word “healthy.” It’s not healthy to reject eternal hope. Are we typically more prone to do so when our lives seem far from trouble, far from death? Like in our youth?
That’s a fair question, Dave. A healthy perspective on life should honestly face the reality of death. Perhaps another word would fit better. I guess from my perspective, what I’m saying is that it’s much easier to ignore dealing with hope or thinking about death as long as you’re not encountering any health problems. But it’s hard to ignore when you’re dealing with life threatening health issues.
When my daughter was 11 she had her large intestine taken out. We could never figure out in our conversations with God why this was happening. 7 years later she had an abscess from leakage of her original surgery. We really thought we were going to lose her. During this time we also found out she had a hole in her heart that also had to be repaired. We were stunned and did not have much “hope” Of course our faith was being tested.
She is 2 months away from being a chiropractor. Is on no medication and is helping people with the disease she was originally diagnosed with.
I guess someone else had a “plan” for her we weren’t aware of.
Great illustration, Mark. There are many things I’m able to look back on today and say, “Oh, now I understand why you let that happen, Lord.” I’m able to see His plan. Although there are still some things that I just don’t get and probably won’t in this life time. That’s when I simply have to trust and hold on to hope. Easier said than done, of course. But there will be a day when I’ll have the opportunity to ask in person and I’m confident I’ll get the final answer. Thanks for sharing your story. Now about this pain in my lower back…