Lessons from Elmo: How to Find Hope beyond the Headlines

Jim Denison | Denison Forum | Published: Feb 05, 2024
Lessons from Elmo: How to Find Hope beyond the Headlines

Lessons from Elmo: How to Find Hope beyond the Headlines

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“How is everybody doing?”

Would you have thought such an innocuous question would generate global headlines?

At last night’s Grammy Awards, Taylor Swift became the only artist ever to win album of the year four times. The Houthis are also making headlines after they vowed yesterday to respond to US and UK joint strikes in Yemen.

Meanwhile, people are responding to a question Elmo from Sesame Street posted on X last week: “Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?” As CNN’s headline notes, “He got an earful.” Some examples:

  • “Elmo I’m depressed and broke.”
  • “Every morning I cannot wait to go back to sleep. Every Monday, I cannot wait for Friday to come. Every single day and every single week for life.”
  • “I’m at my lowest, thanks for asking.”
  • “Elmo I’ve got to level with you baby we are fighting for our lives.”

Scanning the news, it’s not hard to see why. But there’s hope beyond the headlines if we’ll look in the right direction.

What will future historians say of us?

What ties these stories together?

Harvard theologian Harvey Cox observed:

We now live in a “post-Christian” America. The Judeo-Christian ethic no longer guides our social institutions. Christian ideals and values no longer dominate social thought and action. The Bible has ceased to be a common base of moral authority for judging whether something is right or wrong, good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable.

Why is this such an urgent crisis? In Man—The Dwelling Place of GodA. W. Tozer stated:

I am among those who believe that our Western civilization is on its way to perishing. It has many commendable qualities, most of which it has borrowed from the Christian ethic, but it lacks the element of moral wisdom that would give it permanence. Future historians will record that we of the twentieth century had enough intelligence to create a great civilization but not the moral wisdom to preserve it.

He wrote these words in 1966. What would he say of our culture today?

“He is love and he must bless”

If you could travel through space at the speed of light, it would take you forty-seven billion years to reach the most distant objects in the observable universe. No one knows what lies beyond that—except God, who measures all of this with the palm of his hand (Isaiah 40:12).

Here’s the good news: we can place ourselves in those hands if we “wait for the Lᴏʀᴅ” (v. 31a), choosing to depend entirely on his strength and grace. When we do, the rest of the verse tells us how he responds:

  • We “shall renew [our] strength”—the Hebrew means that we exchange our weakness for his omnipotence, our helplessness for his hope.
  • We “shall mount up with wings like eagles” in his supernatural power.
  • We “shall run and not be weary” as we run “the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
  • We “shall walk and not faint,” no matter how hard the path becomes.

All of this our Father wants to do for us. As C. S. Lewis noted, “He is love and he must bless.” Because “God is love” (1 John 4:8), his nature requires him to seek always and only our best.

“More than conquerors through him who loved us”

Consequently, if we are not experiencing our Father’s best, the fault is not his.

If, as people told Elmo, we are “depressed,” at our “lowest,” and “fighting for our lives,” Cox must be right about our “post-Christian” status. If so, as Tozer warned, our civilization is “on its way to perishing.”

But what is true of America doesn’t have to be true of you.

You can “wait for the Lᴏʀᴅ” right now. You can name your greatest struggles and turn them over to his omnipotent grace. You can claim the fact that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). You can then say with Paul, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). And you can ask:

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Who, indeed?

Are you waiting on God, or is he waiting on you?

Image credit: ©GettyImages/Tero Vesalainen

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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Lessons from Elmo: How to Find Hope beyond the Headlines