For many reasons, a good number of people around and close to me have lost hope. Hopelessness can be seen on their faces, heard in their voices. The weight of loss sits on their slumped shoulders and is seen in their sad eyes. A variety of weighty matters fuel their loss – bad economic news, dismal job prospects, family conflict, deteriorating health, broken relationships, and failed dreams. The people, places, and prospects that once filled their lives and gave them purpose have collapsed beneath them. These friends now drift on a sea of hopelessness, not sure of where they are going or what is beyond the horizon. Their loss of hope is more than a funk or a phase. It is a deep malaise that engulfs and rules.
Often the positive talk and spiritual sound bites that I and others might offer have a callous ring and can cause more hurt than hope. Their hurt is real and raw. Cheap religious ointment does not treat their doomed expectations, failed trust, and real loss. They tell me that church seems to offer only loud, upbeat music in the now and happy talk of heaven for the future. And when the church does try to address their ills or care for them, it usually is only a nicer, more spiritual version of the therapy the world is able to give. Many of the religious institutions, ideals, and causes that they were taught to turn to in times of trouble have either disappeared or are no longer trustworthy. These as well have been swept into the same sea of hopelessness.
The harsh reality is that epic social, economical, and personal storms have destroyed many of the moorings on which we once built our hopes. Thus, we have been swept out to sea. And now, pulled this way and that by social, economic, political, and relational currents, we are adrift. We have drifted far from former hopes and now desperately cry out for something or someone to give us a new and sustainable hope. And yet, this drifting and crying actually positions us to find hope – to find Jesus. Hope ultimately is not the religion started in Jesus’ name, or people who represent him, or his cause, or service for him, or even his church. Rather, Jesus is our hope. The sea of hopelessness strips us of the illusion of finding hope through penultimate means and affords us a true opportunity to discover the ultimate source of real, sustaining hope. Opportunity arises, and we turn to Jesus and experience hope as more than a fat pay check, a miracle drug, a feel good movie, streets of gold, or power religion. Hope is Jesus and not these hopeless substitutes.
The quick, easy fix is an allusion. We are past bailouts, pep talks, and cheery sermons. These offer a sugary semblance but not genuine hope. Hope with substance and staying power is what we require. Jesus alone is the hope that sustains and stays with us, no matter what sweeps over and sets us adrift.
I have concluded that I really have very little to say to my friends, as long as I speak from the vantage point of security and the safety of the shore. When I do speak of hope and point them to Jesus, they want to know that I am speaking and pointing as I tread water and bob alongside them. They want to see that I too am desperately clinging to Jesus in this turbulent sea. They want to witness in my person and not just in my words that Jesus is enough.