I Have This Hope

I Have This Hope

China Peak, overlooking Pocatello, Idaho

China Peak, overlooking Pocatello, Idaho

Life is extremely busy for me right now, but busy in a good way. I am still in the process of buying a house and I am packing up all of my stuff that I can so expedite the moving process when the house closes at the end of the month. I am also a little stressed because the real estate agent decided to wait to have the house roofed until the week of closing, which is already a shorter week because of Memorial day, and if it rains and the roof can’t be completed in time for the appraiser to get out and make sure it was completed the closing day will be pushed back. Also, it has rained approximately every other day this month here in Missouri so the closing being delayed because the rain delayed the roofers is a legitimate concern.

I have been reading through the manual and preparing for the VBS class I am teaching that starts the week I move into my house, the first week of June. I will also be attending a weekly men's Bible study on Tuesday mornings that also starts in June. I usually get up at 6:30 every morning, six days a week, but in June I will have to get up earlier because the Bible study at church starts at 6:30 on Tuesdays. I won't get as much sleep on Monday nights, unless I somehow manage to go to be early, but it is for a good cause.

A while back someone at church was in need of a dining room table and chairs, and since I wasn't using mine, I decided to give mine to them. Now that I am buying a house I find myself in need of a dining room set, but I decided that since I have the skills and the tools that I would build them myself and for the next week I have my mother's garage tied up while I build a dining room set for my house. She hasn't said, but I am certain my mother will be glad when I get all of my junk out of her attic, shed and garage.

It seams that every episode lately I wind up talking about something other than what I had originally planned on discussing, and this week is no exception. Honestly, I don't even remember what the original topic was before life events made me think about things and change my topic. This week is about life and the hope that faith in Jesus gives, both during this life and for what comes after. I am calling this episode "I Have this Hope."

There is an older man who goes to the Church I attend and has been there for a few years, and a year or so before his health made it necessary for him to sell his house and move into senior housing I built a railing for the steps on the front of his house so he would not fall while going up or down his steps. Lately this man had been sitting by himself so for the past few weeks I have been meaning to ask him to my home group Bible study, but he always managed to slip out before I got the chance to talk to him. Two Sundays ago I was helping to pass the collection plate at church so when I was done I waited on the side of the room that this elderly gentleman was sitting and asked him to home group. I was informed that he could not go because he doesn't drive anymore, so I immediately volunteered to pick him up and take him with me to home group, which he accepted.

That evening I picked the man up and brought him to home group and he had a great time, and unbeknownst to me at the time, when I dropped him back off at his house that evening I was the last person to see him alive because he died at home in bed that very night. I found out a few days later when another person from my home group texted me and told me that he died, and a day later the pastor called me and told me that I was, in fact, the last person to see him alive.

I am extremely glad that I followed through with the prompting that I felt to ask him to my home group and I am glad that he had an enjoyable evening with people who cared about him and respected him before passing. Had I not asked him to home group I would have always regretted it. I was not able to go to his funeral because I had to work last Saturday, which is when the funeral was held, but I am glad that I was able to make some sort of positive impact on his life while he was alive.

It would be a sad life to think that there is no hope beyond the grave, especially for those who have a difficult life, and there are so many in this world today that have no hope. I am not sure what kind of life this man lived when he was younger, but in the few years that I knew him he was a good man and I have no reason to think otherwise than that he was right with the Lord before he died.

Practically every week lately I wind up covering a topic other than the topic I had originally planned because life events get me to thinking about things and I abandon my original topic for one that has arisen due to circumstances, and this week is no exception. I honestly don’t even remember what I was originally planning on talking about this week.

This week I will be discussing the hope that comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not just a hope for the afterlife, but hope for this life as well. I am calling this week’s episode “I Have This Hope.” The name was inspired by the song the same name by Tenth Avenue North but also by the teachings of Paul in Romans chapter 8.

I Have This Hope

Tenth Avenue North

As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don't want to live in fear
I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

But sometimes my faith feels thin
Like the night will never end
Will You catch every tear
Or will You just leave me here?

But I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

Yes, I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

So, whatever happens I will not be afraid
Cause You are closer than this breath that I take
You calm the storm when I hear You call my name
I still believe that one day I'll see Your face

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

Some nihilistic atheist, which is the only atheism that makes any sense at all because without a God or higher power there are no morals and no point to anything, say that it is ridiculous to have hope and that everyone should embrace the cold truth as they see it. I don’t agree though, I think that even if there wasn’t a God, though I firmly believe there is, the hope that comes from belief is worth while and makes life so much better. There is no reason to live a life without hope unless you just like being miserable, and I do know a few people who at least appear to like to be miserable and get angry if anyone tries to cheer them up.

As anyone who know me personally or anyone who is a regular reader of this blog or listener of my podcast is aware of, I was completely devoid of faith for a little over three years and it was, without doubt, the darkest time in my life. Not only was I going through an extremely rough time with my failing marriage and subsequent divorce, my nihilistic views on life made things much harder to bare and I often didn’t even see the point with continuing on. I thought that life was accidental and pointless and therefore my pain and suffering was also pointless.

I didn’t so much think my life was unfair as I thought life in general was unfair, which it is, and that there was no reason for hope because there was no higher power and the universe was indifferent to our suffering. If there is no God than the answer to the meaning of life might as well be 42 (some of you got the joke), or any other arbitrary and senseless answer because without God there is no intrinsic meaning to life or to anything else and no hope either.

Sometimes I was so angry with life that I wanted to yell at whatever cosmic force was responsible for it all, but since I didn’t believe there to be any higher power I shouted into the cold dark void, thinking that I was the only one in the universe who cared about my pain and suffering. I now know though that God not only heard my shouts but also felt my pain and suffering and cared deeply and was silently working things in my life to guide me back to him.

I am not going to spend time on what led me to the loss of my faith or the process by which I regained my faith as I talked about both in great detail in previous episodes. Today I want to focus on the change in my life and in my happiness and satisfaction with life when I accepted Jesus into my life.

I did my best to convince myself that I was happy as an atheist because I didn’t want my religious family members and friends to think that was their opening to push religion on me, but I don’t think I was convincing anyone. I was deeply depressed and often remarked in my journal that I didn’t even know why I was bothering because there was no point to my life and that there didn’t appear to be any reason to hope that it would improve much. I was often overwhelmed with a sense of dread and doom and I had many existential crisis because I viewed life as meaningless and yet struggled to find meaning in my own life. The thought that I would live a hard life for no reason and then die without making a difference for anyone else and would not be remembered bothered me deeply. I wanted my life to have meaning and to matter, even if I would cease to exist at the end of it.

Some people may claim that they have found meaning in their life without a religious or spiritual belief, but I personally doubt that it is true and suspect that their efforts to convince themselves they have found meaning have been in vain. I just don’t see any way that a person could find any real meaning to their life if they believe there is nothing more significant or bigger than they themselves are.

When I was without faith I struggled with how unfair it was that so many people do horrible things and then die without ever making amends and escape the consequences of those actions and that so many innocent people suffered needlessly and never got retribution. Now I have hope that in the end God will make right every wrong and that he will dry every tear. I also have hope that nothing in this world can keep us from the love of God.

The famous words of Paul that I mentioned earlier from Romans 8:28-29 say, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

A shirt I used to wear a lot when I was an atheist, it reads “Good because I want to be. No superstition required.” Also, the ratty goatee was not a good look for me.

A shirt I used to wear a lot when I was an atheist, it reads “Good because I want to be. No superstition required.” Also, the ratty goatee was not a good look for me.

Both because of all of the bad things that were going in in my life at the time and because of the existential crisis that was brought about by thinking my life and my efforts, and life in general, was meaningless I was almost constantly depressed and anxious. I was also in a foul mood most of the time and wasn’t very empathetic to other people, though I viewed myself as a “good” person and thought I was nice to people, in retrospect I wasn’t nice. During that period of my life I had a shirt that I used to wear nearly constantly that said, “Good because I want to be. No superstition required.” I didn’t break the law and I wasn’t hurting anyone, at least not intentionally, and I was kind to animals but I think it would have been a stretch to say that I was a good person.

Full disclosure, I am not as nice of a person as I should be even now, but at least I am aware of that fact and I am working on it. I have hope that even when I fall short, as I inevitably will, that God’s grace is sufficient for me and he will not only give me another chance to get better but will help me to do so. When I was without faith I did not try to be a nicer person because I had fooled myself into thinking that I was already a nice person, even when the evidence proved otherwise.

When I gave my life to Christ I put effort into being a better person because my desires had changed and I wanted to be more like the God who saved me. One of the things I knew I needed work on was how sarcastic and condescending I often was and I made a conscious effort to improve in that area. One day I was with one of my uncles and someone asked me an extremely stupid question, but instead of acting annoyed or answering in a condescending or demeaning manner I politely and patiently answered the question. After the person walked away my uncle said he was surprised that I didn’t say anything snide so I said, “So am I, but I am trying to be nicer to people.”

When a person is truly born again it changes his or her outlook on everything because they are a new creature in Christ and the old person has died. The greatest thing God ever did for us was to sacrifice on our behalf so that we could be forgiven of our sins and go to heaven, but there are so many more positive things we gain from following God than just not going to hell!

When I was without faith I viewed this life as all there was and therefore I thought that so long as I wasn’t hurting anyone I was doing well, but I am certain that my rude and sarcastic comments hurt at least a few people. Viewing this short earth life as all there is leads most atheist and agnostics to live a hedonistic lifestyle. The thought is basically that if life is all there is than we should live it to the fullest and enjoy every minute, but I think the high suicide rate among rock stars is proof that hedonism does not lead to happiness.

Despite the fact that I was doing many things that the world says should bring happiness, I was not happy. I am now working so much and volunteering so much that I don’t have much if any free time, I don’t party and most of my social interactions are Church related, and I am happier than I have ever been. I am not saying that I don’t have any problems, but by changing my outlook on life I am happier doing mundane things in the storm than I was partying in the nice weather.

Because of Jesus I have hope that my suffering in this life and the suffering of other people is not in vain and will lead to some greater good, I have hope that even when life is not going as I planned that God is guiding me to something better than I planned, and I have the hope that after this life that I will be with Jesus forever.

I like to say, and it is completely true, that my faith in God did not increase because my life got better but rather my life got better because my faith in God increased. I don’t even care that my atheist and agnostic friends think I am foolish for it, but it is a lot easier to deal with hardships in life with the knowledge that God is in control and that he loves me more than I will ever know in this life.



Feel Good Christianity

Feel Good Christianity

Homecoming

Homecoming