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Hope Takes Guts
Hello from the other side of midterm season, everybody! It’s been another busy semester here at school, and I came to the realization a few days ago that I hadn’t updated the blog since November. Fortunately, I’ve now survived a very busy week of tests and papers, (by God’s grace alone, I assure you,) and I’m just about to finish up a very relaxing Spring Break. Basically, this was a terrific opportunity to return to the blog; I couldn’t pass it up, and I’m very happy to be back. In this post, I wanted to share some observations that have been bouncing around in my head for a while now, about the way we as individuals and as a culture think about hope. I know this probably sounds somewhat obtuse, but bear with me for just a minute. It’s obvious that people today are desperately looking for hope. Witness what a platform of “hope and change” did in the 2008 elections. Ultimately, however, I believe our society has a pathological fear of getting its hopes up. Our culture wants to believe that sometimes things do turn out for the better. Sometimes we do get to have happy endings with the people we love. Sometimes the hero does win the day, and evil is vanquished. In the end, what our culture is seeking is eternal hope. We human beings have an unchangeable conviction that everything ought to turn out alright in the end. We long for some assurance that this will happen. The problem is our society no longer has any grounds for believing in any of this. Our culture is in the grip of nihilism. God is dead. Good and evil are relative. Our only real purpose in life is to seek out as much pleasure and avoid as much pain as possible. Even doing this we can’t hope for much; random, unfeeling chance dictates much of our lives. Relationships can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. Dreams and aspirations can experience catastrophic failure at any point. There is no reason why bad things happen to good people, still less any chance for final justice. Even living in a nihilistic era can’t kill our sense that something is horribly wrong with the way things are. Yet we have no reason to expect a final resolution to any of these problems; our only choice is to become cynical and hard-bitten, to learn to “deal with” the cruelty of the world. “Life sucks, then you die.” Friends, there’s a reason the word “gospel” means “good news.” God’s stepping into history, the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, and the promise of eternal life give us better grounds for hope than we can imagine. The Gospel is a powerful proof against all the dark, soul-devouring assumptions of our culture. Our lives do have a greater purpose. This fallen world is moving towards a time when everything will be made right again. Most importantly, a good God, who longs to give us every good thing, is sovereign over this world. This doesn’t mean everything will always run smoothly for us. We know, however, what the ultimate outcome will be; we also know that God works all things together for our good. Living in a world so sunk in despair, however, it’s often difficult for Christians to remember the hope that we have. At times, this can be especially true of those with disabilities. We naturally tend to focus the most on the crisis of the moment. We buckle down, grit our teeth, and tell ourselves that we need to be ready for whatever comes our way. We can’t allow ourselves to become too overly hopeful, or we’re bound to be disappointed. Often, we Christianize this mindset by telling ourselves that we should expect trials, that God never promised us things would be easy here on earth. All that’s true, and I’m not advocating that we cast aside our awareness that we live in a fallen world. Growing up with a disability, however, I know what the long train of surgeries, therapies, doctors, and other challenges can be like. There’s every possibility that we can become world-weary, expecting every day to bring nothing but new challenges and difficulties. We may tell ourselves that this is the cross God has given us to bear. I tend to think, however, that an overall attitude that looks like this is mostly the world talking. We’ve been told not to expect too much out of life, so we become cynical and tough-shelled based on our circumstances. But if we remember the God we serve, we’ll realize that its impossible to expect too much. We shouldn’t be afraid to allow God to bless us. Even when we go through difficult times, we must remember that our lives are pervaded by an eternal hope. And while we’re waiting for the fulfillment of that promise, we should anticipate earthly blessings eagerly, embracing them when they come and trusting when they don’t. Let’s not forget that God wants to give us all good things. Let’s live as though that were true.