Reason to hope
We currently find ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, a major economic crisis, extended social isolation, continued political turmoil, major social injustices, and heightened racial tensions. It's fair to say that some things — yes, even sports — simply pale in significance.
Even so, I can't tell you what a personal disappointment it was to me when — in the midst of Spring Training, just two weeks shy of Opening Day — Major League Baseball was indefinitely postponed. Very few sportsfans have been left unaffected by seasons and events being interrupted, postponed, or drastically altered.
And to top it all off, they canceled the Olympics!
But this week — as I write this — a glimmer of hope stands out like a comet on the horizon. And next week — when you, perhaps, are reading this — baseball's Opening Day will likely have come and gone, the NBA will be close to a restart, and other sports will be moving forward with plans to compete. The whole thing, I think, is offering at least some semblance of normalcy.
Dare I say that it's even giving us reason to hope again?
WE ARE MADE TO HOPE
Hope is a uniquely human capacity, connected with our distinctive ability to consciously live "in time." We are able to differentiate between the past, the present, and the future. This intuitive grasp of passing time allows us to learn from the past and organize our lives around a preferred future. Holding a preferred and anticipated future in our minds and hearts is what we call hope.
On a daily basis, we exercise this capacity for hope whenever we look forward to something.
Baseball gives me hope because it's something I look forward to during the long and dark months of winter. Spring Training brings with it not only the prospect of a fresh start and a new season, but the very hope of spring itself: new life, redemption, resurrection. Each team has a chance at a fresh start. And who doesn't love a fresh start?
So back in March, when the baseball season was "indefinitely postponed," my sense of hope came under serious assault. And across the battlefields of our lives, hope has taken some heavy fire and amassed some serious casualties in recent days, as so many of our future plans have been cancelled, postponed, or completely changed.
If we're honest, we're all a little depressed, frustrated, and even angry right now as a result. There is so much uncertainty as to what will happen in the coming days, weeks, and months that we are tempted to despair. Which goes to show that we are people who have been created for and are in desperate need of hope. And perhaps the most sinister effect of this pandemic has been its attack on our sense of hope. Scripture nails it on the head when it declares that "hope deferred makes the heart sick…" (Proverbs 13:12).
But maybe the coronavirus is here so that we can learn to get our hope right.
As you assess your own feelings of anger, you may be shocked to discover underneath them an uneasy sense of hopelessness and meaninglessness. And since most of us prefer to ignore negative emotions, we usually just get angry at the leftists or rightists or communists or fascists or racists or liberals or whomever we think has threatened our hope.
But have you ever thought to yourself: "What are those things on which I've placed my hope?" Perhaps you will find, upon deeper inspection, that God is exposing them as frauds that cannot hold up under the pressure being brought on by a microscopic virus. And perhaps your protective response of anger and outrage is a clue to their fragility. Perhaps, if you're willing to admit it, you've placed your hope in idols.
An idol can be anything in your life that you look to for meaning, purpose, or salvation. Idols are things that are not God, but in which you nevertheless place your hope. And because you expect so much from your idols, any perceived threat against them becomes an enemy toward which your anger must be directed.
But any idol that can be truly threatened is not one in which you should place any hope. Things like sports, comfort, money, vacations, political victories, power, economic stability, personal freedom, or any of a number of other things all pale in comparison to the rock-solid hope that we are promised in the Bible.
When the authors of the New Testament wrote about hope, they invariably connected it with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was, of course, a historical event that occurred in the past, but which has distinctly future consequences. Because if Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, then there is a rock-solid hope that he will one day return to make all things right. We are, thus, "waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
If this is the case, wouldn't it then be best to "set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13)? Not only that, but Christ's resurrection holds promises that anyone who trusts in Christ has hope that they too will one day be raised from the dead with him.
And I can think of nothing better to look forward to than that.
Mike Phay is the pastor of First Baptist Church. He can be reached at 541-447-7717.
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