We called our church ‘Hope’ for a very simple reason – everybody needs it!
I was reminded of that by the words of an Indian railway worker in a TV documentary I saw recently.
‘You have to have hope. Without hope, life is not worth living.’
For ticket collector Aarman – his job in jeopardy and the future for him and his family uncertain – the need for hope was obvious. Around the globe, many people like Aarman face a struggle for survival each day.
And even those of us in more secure circumstances need to hope that tomorrow will be at least as good as today. Stop to think for a moment, and we all know how vulnerable we are to changes which can make life so miserable – ill health, broken relationships, career failure, the loss of a loved one …
But what sort of hope can we have? Aarman’s attitude seemed similar to that of Mr Micawber, a Dickens character known for his expectation that ‘something will turn up’. We could call this ‘vague optimism’, a flimsy philosophy which surely cannot bear much weight. Sure, sometimes things work out, but many people live with disappointment or worse.
Then there is ‘false hope’, much more certain in its content, but based on convictions that sooner or later prove to be without foundation. A prime example of this was Neville Chamberlain’s announcement in 1938 of ‘peace for our time’, followed less than a year later by the outbreak of the Second World War. How dangerous appeasement proved to be!
The alternative to hope is bleak. ‘No hope’ can lead to the painful experience of despair and sometimes that sense of hopelessness has heartbreaking consequences.
So, what sort of hope do Christians have to offer? Let’s call it ‘confident hope’. Rooted in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, it’s not an escapist fantasy. Jesus was clear that his followers could not necessarily expect a comfortable and easy life. But he promised to help and strengthen them in any situation, and Christians the world over have testified to the reality of this hope ever since.
There’s more, though. What ultimately destroys hope is death. Christians believe that Jesus Christ defeated death by his resurrection, not because we are clutching at straws but on the basis of serious historical evidence and our own experience of him today. Our faith in Jesus leads us to expect a life beyond this life in a transformed world which he promised we would share with him.
Now, you’re not just going to take our word for it. But maybe it is worth considering what sort of hope you have yourself. And if you’re looking for something better, maybe it’s time to consider Jesus.
Further reading: The Gospel of John; Timothy Keller – The Reason for God (ch 13, The Reality of the Resurrection)