A favorite song of recent years is titled "What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love" — but before the world can have love it must have hope!
Every morning we wake up to a cacophony of fear and despair, chaos and cruelty, coups and corruption. In the newspaper, over the morning cup of coffee, we read of crime increases and social disintegrations, bloody revolutions and civil disorders taking hundreds of lives somewhere else while we slept, natural disasters (also somewhere else, hopefully) killing hundreds or thousands in their beds, with perhaps tens of thousands homeless. Governments are unstable, shaken worldwide by epidemics of distrust of officialdom, the yawning chasms of credibility gaps, the outside pressures of aggressive world powers bent on world domination.
Sword of Damocles
While some of us are dying from overeating, nearly twenty thousand around the world die of starvation every day. The hunger bomb and the population explosion seem about to unite in a critical mass and blow civilization as we know it off this beautiful round blue ball of life we call earth. Our own breadbasket seems in jeopardy, as weathermen tell us that we are entering a drought cycle similar to or worse than the dust bowl specter of the 30s. The future looks glum — the black horse of Revelation has just been saddled up for his end-time run. The sword of Damocles in the form of nuclear holocaust hangs over our heads. There is weather upset, fuel crisis, mindless crime, dope addiction, political corruption at all levels, a degenerate low in education for our next generation, pollution of the air we breathe and the water we drink and the land we live on, glowing sparks in international politics that could ignite World War III (literally the war to end all wars, because it could end all life on earth). Our own personal problems seem small in comparison, but they are real: You just lost your job, your family is about to break up, you can't make ends meet, your son is sick, your mother just died... It's just too much. The modern-day pace, communications worldwide and the instantaneous broadcast of all the problems of the world into our own living rooms, combined with the personal crises we face, add up to an overload on our capacity to cope. Hope has long since fled; despair hangs heavy. "What's the use? Nothing's going to turn out all right!" is the plaintive cry of many.
Doomsdayers, sundowners and prophets of doom all have a heyday — their moans and cries of despair and negativism seem very credible in today's world. Armageddon is a household word no longer the property of the religious fanatic. People are more familiar with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse than they are with the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Politicians, newsmen, educators, historians, even businessmen have taken over from the lunatic fringe of the clergy the expression "the end of the world"! Purpose, direction, a set goal are all missing from our collective lives and from most of our individual lives. Peace, security, happiness are all empty words that have lost meaning in the hopeless world of today. Thankfully, God has no intention of allowing mankind to meet his demise in either a bang — or a whimper — of despair. Our Creator is not going to allow mankind to die in the throes of World War III. He is not going to sit by and let mankind commit suicide (cosmocide) through any combination of population explosion, lack of food, pollution, disease, natural catastrophes and economic chaos. He has a hope which He is determined to spend His limitless energies fulfilling — the greatest hope there is! This world needs hope — you need hope. Hope means, by dictionary definition, "to cherish a desire for something with some expectation of obtaining it."
If Hope Were Fulfilled
Let's leave the world scene and start small — with you. What do you hope for? What do you desire to obtain? What is your own individual and personal hope — apart from a hopeless world? A raise in pay? Maybe just a job? A new car? A home? A husband or wife or children? Financial security? A friendly neighbor? Health? Longevity? Happiness? Freedom from fear? What if your hope were fulfilled? Let's say you want to get married. So, you get married. Five years pass. You've achieved what you hoped for: You're married. The ceremony is over; it was a lovely church wedding; all your friends were there; you were given fabulous gifts by relatives and friends alike; the honeymoon was a dream fulfilled that you look fondly back on with misty-eyed memory. But now the flower girls are gone; the rose-colored glasses you saw things through have turned to gray. The babies (you so hoped for) are here and the diapers and the sleepless nights along with them. Bills are mounting; your mate is nagging. You both work, but you've spent almost as much time going over your budget with cut after cut as you have working on your job. The car needs repair, you don't know how you are going to pay for increasing insurance and fuel rates, the kids are outgrowing clothes faster than you can buy them, but your overextended checking account, your mortgage, your time-payment bills and your credit-card balances (all in the red) say you can barely afford to put food on the table. Your hope of five years ago is fulfilled — and it now seems a hopeless situation. Now what do you hope for? A raise! If you just earned one hundred dollars more a month... So, you get a raise! Your hope is again fulfilled. But you soon discover that inflation has more than eaten up the advantages of the raise, your four-year-old broke an arm and your wife wrecked the car. You're deeper in debt than before. Now what do you hope for?
Tomorrow's Silver Lining
Hope is a strange thing. You've probably noticed that you never hope for something you already have. You always hope for some future improvement on your present lot in life. Fortunately, we can change our hopes, upgrade them as each in turn becomes fulfilled (or as we give up hope of them being fulfilled). Hope makes the world go around — the possibility of future betterment, of tomorrow's silver lining for the clouds of today. Without hope people don't try. The fact is that each hope fulfilled demands a new hope to live for. In human history hope has a strange cycle. Whether you pick Genghis Khan, communism or Christopher Columbus, the same unfailing cycle occurs. Hope begins in despair. That is, the individual seems to be in a hopeless situation — then an idea strikes and hope flares anew, The individual now has a reason to live, because he feels that there may be some slim chance of achieving the goal he has seen. Life has meaning again. He strives (for his individual hope, or perhaps his hope is big enough to encompass a group as large as a whole nation, religion, or empire) to accomplish that hope. He succeeds!
Yet, oddly enough, nothing in history fails quite to the extent of success! In the footsteps of success invariably follows one degree or another of apathy. The individual or the group becomes careless with the success achieved. With no bigger, newer hope, there is no reason to strive, to live, to face a challenge anymore. Things bog down. The goal, which seemed so golden at the beginning, loses its glitter. Apathy breeds cynicism. Cynicism, in its turn; engenders despair. And the cycle is right back where it started. The reason is because the hope is never big enough! A hope, to be lasting, must be big enough so that it can never be accomplished in its entirety. Otherwise a new, bigger and more vigorous hope must follow on the heels of the fulfillment of the past hope.
Example From History
Let's take Christopher Columbus's hope for an example. Columbus hoped to prove his idea that the world was round indeed and not flat, as most of the people of his day believed, For most of his adult years, that hope drove him to accomplish the things which he did, Nothing in his life swayed him from pursuing that one goal. All other things were subservient to it. Family, job, his own health were all spent in feverish desire to attain that one hope. The despair of the humdrum life of his age and circumstance was given meaning and reason. It was a great hope. It was greater than anyone else had come up with in his generation. It seemed foolish, but he believed in it and was driven to accomplish it at all costs. Finally, he convinced the Crown of Spain to back his idea, his goal, his hope. The queen even hocked her jewels to finance his venture. Columbus was given three ships and a crew from the prisons of her government to prove his hope. But, believe it or not, his hope was not big enough! He hoped that by sailing west he could reach the East-India, China, the Orient, fabulously rich. What proving his hope accomplished was greater than his hope! Instead of proving that you could reach the East by sailing west (and so proving that the world was round and not flat), he came upon a whole new world! Not only was his life's hope achieved, but a goal far richer than he had imagined was revealed. Of course, he was hailed as a great explorer, unique as far as the world of his day realized — he was honored, feted, and sent back to govern the new lands he had discovered. The hope of his entire previous life was fulfilled and then some! But now what did he have to live for? What new hope, greater and more significant than the first, did he have to give meaning and purpose to his existence? Unfortunately, none!
The Human Cycle
The sad circumstances of the life of Columbus after the fulfillment of his life's hope are some of the most painful on record. The ignominy, final imprisonment and utter despair (not to mention abject poverty) in which one of the greatest explorers known to mankind finally died exemplifies perfectly the point that unless your hope is big enough to survive success it is indeed hopeless. Columbus failed miserably in governing what he had discovered. Others took away from him the potential and riches he had discovered. He ended his life in poverty, having suffered the indignity of chains and imprisonment in the face of the successful fulfillment of one of the greatest hopes ever maintained by man. He died in despair, a hopeless man. The human cycle had been fulfilled: despair, hope, success, apathy, cynicism, despair — an empty circle, because his hope was not big enough! What about you?
Hope That Is Transcendent
When we first break ties of economic dependence on our parents and begin an independent life, we hope for things, or the money to get things. If and when those things come to us, we begin to realize "things" are not enough to hope for. Even to keep the things we now have that we hoped for, we need security — and security is not a thing. Security depends on the economy, on government, on peace, on health, on future stability. All these are hopes that drive us on — we never seem to achieve anyone of them for long (and I do not know of any individual who has achieved all these hopes at any one time). But are any of these hopes big enough? What if you lived in a peaceful, secure, economically healthy and stable state — what would you hope for then? What hope would keep you from boredom; what hope would you seek to achieve which would give meaning to your life, purpose and reason to live, a goal to strive for? That's where God enters the picture. God holds out a hope that is transcendent, that goes above and beyond the goals and purposes of this life, that offers a challenge that keeps you going all life long; a hope that is never fulfilled in this life, a hope beyond the grave, a reason to live.
Do you realize that God Himself lives by hope!? Did you know that God has set before Himself a hope so great that not even He will be able to realize it, ever? That His goal and reason for living, that for which He strives, for which He is and was willing to die for, is so vast and eternally occupying that He will never achieve it? The God who put this world together did so with a plan in mind. That plan was not the hopeless Nirvana of one major religion of the world which promises you will become an unconscious part of the great whole of nothing with no worries forever — because you have no individual consciousness forever. It is not the bliss of slumbering in a hammock slung between two date palms in an oasis, being fed by voluptuous maidens forever, the promise of which the followers of Allah are assured. It is not walking the golden streets with golden slippers, strumming on a harp with your only worry being how to keep your halo straight, as seems to be the promise of the majority of Protestant groups. It is most certainly not the promise of finally being able to look into the face of God and appreciate the beatific vision (whatever that is), as is the promise to those who follow the Catholic faith: What the God who created everything proposes is to bring you into His very family. To be God as God is God! Not just to be a God in the euphemistic sense of us all being brothers and sisters with God as our figurehead Father, but to share His divine nature completely. Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is alive and well, not in hiding, but at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He fully plans to fulfill the promise He made to us in the name of the Father: to bring many sons to glory, to establish His Kingdom here on this earth. God's promise is to make you a son as Christ is now His Son. To grant you membership in the literal family of God. To give you eternal life as He is eternal. To make you holy as He is holy. As Possessor of the universe, to share with you all power and joint ownership. To share with you the divine nature. To give you the character of God, full of love, peace, joy — so you may be God as God is God! This is the purpose of creation — the hope of the world!
Eternal Reason to Live
God's real plan is practical. He says of His family Kingdom that there will never be an end to its expansion. His plan is to continue adding sons and daughters who look, feel, act like Him and who are composed of the same self-regenerating eternal spirit life as He is, forever! That is why the goal God has set before Himself is a hope that not even He will ever fulfill. Endless, eternal, forever creating an ever-expanding family to enjoy and rule the great creation He has already made — and to have you and me share in future creations without end. A busy, practical, interesting, challenging, ongoing plan that gives an eternal reason to live. There is no boredom in that plan. Never a time when your interest will run out. No mythical, religious-sounding folderol about some spiritual never-never land where you do nothing forever — but an eternal job of creating, governing! problem-solving with visible benefit. That's a hope worth living for... and worth dying for, if necessary, in this life. Because God our Father has our life in His hands at all times. No man can take that away from you — because He has the power to resurrect you from whatever death any man can inflict upon you. He created you in the first place for a reason beyond the imagination of any religion on the face of the earth — a reason some in the religious field would call blasphemy (to think that the purpose for our creation could be to make us equal with God in every way). No matter what your many temporary and interim goals and hopes may be — and may they all be fulfilled — be sure to cherish this greatest possible hope God offers us to give transcendent purpose to our lives. Make this hope your hope!