I recently sat through a lecture entitled, “Hope: The Opium of the People”. I’m not kidding. The venue for this lecture was a secular medical institution. The premise of the lecture was how medical professionals offer hope in seemingly hopeless situations and the benefits or risks of offering that hope.
People depend so much on hope, that when there seems to be none in a situation, we try to manufacture false hope in order to offer something. False hope is like monopoly money. It won’t get us far in the real world.
As I sat there listening to the lecture, I had a rough time keeping quiet. The lecturer had numerous initials behind his name, was a respected professional in his field, but his words rang empty for me. His attempt to speak about hope without speaking about the ultimate source of hope was pretty frustrating. To the relief of my co-workers, I managed to keep my seat and my mouth shut, but inside I was screaming.
The speaker shared the problems that can arise when medical professionals continue to offer hope, or false hope, to people who are diagnosed with a terminal disease, or at least a life altering one. The speaker presented statistics that showed how often doctors offer treatment options for patients that they know will not work, because they feel compelled to offer some kind of hope to the patient. Those stats are pretty high, actually.
At what point is it acceptable to stop offering a person hope?
The fact is true that we are all going to die. No one gets out of this life alive. Even if we get that miracle, it is only a reprieve. So for all of us, the hope of living longer, eventually goes away.
So then we have to look to other ways we can offer hope in those situations. If life is no longer the hope, then perhaps reconciling a relationship before death can become the hope, or living long enough to see a first grandchild be born, or a child get married can be the hope we offer.
If all of those hopes are dashed then we have to look completely outside of ourselves to the ultimate hope that we have, and that is the hope we have in Jesus. This is what I wanted to tell the speaker that day. Jesus is our hope. Our only hope. He is our hope for a cure. He is our hope for reconciliation; he is our hope for everything. He is the source of our hope.
Hope is like joy. We can only manufacture so much of it on our own. When our reserves are depleted, if we are not connected to Jesus, our source, then all hope truly is gone. We look to professionals to offer it, to family, to friends, even to clergy. But if we stand apart from Christ, we will not be refilled with the hope we need.
One of my all time favorite movies came out in 2004, and is called “Flight of the Phoenix”. In this movie, a group of men are forced to crash-land their plane in an uncharted area of the Mongolian desert. After realizing rescue was not coming, the survivors decide to try to rebuild the plane and rescue themselves.
My favorite quote from the movie comes when one of the characters decides rebuilding the aircraft is a pointless endeavor. He is met with this line from another character:
“I think a man only needs one thing in life. He just needs someone to love. If you can’t give him that, then give him something to hope for. And if you can’t give him that, just give him something to do.”
I believe truer words have never been spoken. As human beings we need three things. We need love. We need hope. And we need purpose. To have any or all of these things, we have to be in relationship with the source of them all. We need Jesus.
We cannot have a conversation about hope and it not include him. Any talk of hope, love, or purpose, without talking about Christ falls flat, just like the lecture I heard last week. It was full of statistics and graphs and lofty intentions, but apart from Christ, the speaker’s words were hollow.
Are you feeling hopeless about a situation in your own life just now? Are you digging deep and still not able to muster it up? Reconnect to the source. The Bible tells us that when we seek him we will find him. He’s not hiding from us. He’s right there, in the middle of our mess, ready to give us the hope we need.