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Christian hope

In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world

Christian hope
A hand-drawn banner of Colonel Tom Moore
hangs on the railings in front of a war memorial to mark VE Day in 2020

This note of encouragement is meant for those who are understandably despondent and forlorn about their future from the worldwide government-imposed lockdowns and public health measures imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

I sat for my final undergraduate law examinations at the National University of Singapore shortly after President George H. W. Bush launched Operation Desert Storm in  Jan 1991. Since then, I have learnt and re-learnt the same lesson during the various crises,  including financial and health, which the world and Singapore have gone through—to trust Jesus and depend on Him.

Christian hope

Let me start with what Christian hope is not. Christian hope is not optimism since it is not a denial of reality.

According to English lay theologian, G. K. Chesterton, hope is hoping when things are hopeless: “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all… As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.”

In a sermon titled “The Sweet Uses of Adversity”, Charles Spurgeon said: “And dost thou not know that hope itself is like a star—not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity?”

Scottish Baptist Minister, Alexander MacLaren, explained in his sermon titled “The Fruit of the Spirit” that hope in adversity comes from the abiding presence of God: “True peace comes not from the absence of trouble but from the presence of God, and will be deep and passing all understanding in the exact measure in which we live in, and partake of, the love of God.”

Christian hope is not stoically trying our best to cope and turning to God only when things appear hopeless. Rather, it is going through each day together with Him, resting on His promise that He will never leave nor forsake us (Heb 13:5b).

Even when we are unaware of His presence, God is with us, as the well-known poem titled “Footprints in the Sand” expresses so well:

 

One night I dreamed a dream.

I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

 

When the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

There was only one set of footprints.

I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest times of my life,

 

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

“Lord, you told me when I decided to follow You,

You would walk and talk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

There was only one set of footprints.

I just don’t understand why, when I needed You the most,

You would leave me.”

 

The Lord replied, “My precious child, I love you

And I will never ever leave you during your trial and suffering.

When you looked back at the journey of your life

And saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

 

We are reminded in Matthew 6:34 of the futility of anxiety over the future: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”.

Alexander MacLaren explained why you and I should not worry in his 1859 sermon titled “Anxious Care”: “And what does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow, brother, of its sorrows; but, ah! it empties today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil, it makes you unfit to cope with it when it comes. It does not bless tomorrow, and it robs today.”

Let us cast all our cares on Him for He cares for you and me (1 Peter 5:7) and face our tomorrows resting in the knowledge that He knows your and my future. In the words of the song “I Don’t Know About Tomorrow”, composed by Ira Forest Stanphill:

 

I don’t know about tomorrow

I just live from day to day

I don’t borrow from its sunshine

For its skies may turn to grey

I don’t worry o’er the future

For I know what Jesus said

And today I’ll walk beside Him

For He knows what is ahead

 

Many things about tomorrow

I don’t seem to understand

But I know who holds tomorrow,

And I know who holds my hand

 

God comforts us in our adversities so that you and I can then be channels of God’s comfort and hope to others in their adversities (1 Cor 1:3–4).

Concluding remarks

In 2019, 99-year-old retired British Army Officer Captain Sir Tom Moore (better known as Captain Tom) set a target to raise £1,000 for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) by doing 100 laps in his garden with the aid of a walking frame. He ended up raising £4 million for NHS and more than £33 million for NHS Charities Together. For this, he made an honorary colonel and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in July 2020, about six months before he passed away from COVID-19.

Music has always soothed me and helped remind me of God’s abiding presence. Come up with your own selection of gospel songs to soothe you when you are anxious and to help remind you of God’s abiding presence. Each of us, you and me, can then become a channel of God’s comfort and hope wherever we are and to all peoples, regardless of race, language and religion, but especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:10).

James Lau is a member of Barker Road Methodist Church.

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