We All Need Hope

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Monday, December 6, 2021
asian businessman hands folded in prayer looking up for hope

We All Need Hope


NOTE: America is remembering Sen. Bob Dole, one of our nation’s greatest war heroes, after he died in his sleep yesterday morning. In tomorrow’s Daily Article, we will focus on his life and legacy in light of the eightieth anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

Supply chain issues are affecting Christmas gifts, as everyone knows. Now they are affecting the one who gives these gifts as well: 18 percent of America’s Santas are taking the year off.

In addition, many of the men who play the role are at high risk for COVID-19 due to their age and the “Santa physique” that tends to put them at higher risk. The founder of HireSanta, an agency for Santa and Mrs. Clauses, told the Washington Post, “Several hundred Santas and Mrs. Clauses, over the last eighteen months, have passed away, and it’s just a tragedy.” (He does note that not all those deaths may have been attributable to the pandemic.)

Here’s another tragic Santa headline: a new ad for the Norwegian postal service depicts a man falling in love with Santa Claus. Yahoo Entertainment reports that the ad is called “When Harry Met Santa” and depicts Santa falling for “a man who looks forward to seeing him every year.” Harry in turn is “heartbroken that he must wait so long in between visits.” At the end of the ad, Santa tells Harry, “Well, I arranged some help this year so I can be with you,” and then the two men kiss.

Yahoo Entertainment calls the ad “heartwarming.”

Homeowners burn down house trying to rid it of snakes

There are many reasons to be discouraged these days, from the rise of the omicron coronavirus variant to concerns that Russia is planning an invasion of Ukraine to the continuing tragedy of school shootings. America’s cultural trajectory seems to be moving further from biblical morality every day.

However, Jesus still calls you and me to be salt and light, both of which must engage that which they are to transform (Matthew 5:13-16). As Nehemiah confessed the sins of his people though he had not participated in such sins personally (Nehemiah 1:5-7), so we are to stand in solidarity with our culture. We are to “seek the welfare” of our nation and “pray to the LORD on its behalf,” remembering that “in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).

Unlike the man who jumped out of a taxiing Southwest Airlines plane at the Phoenix airport, we must not abandon the “plane” on which we are traveling. Unlike the homeowners who tried to smoke out a snake infestation in their $1.8 million Maryland home and ended up burning it down, our cultural engagement must not create a greater problem than we solve.

Unlike the motorcyclists who took the corpse of a friend out of its coffin and propped it on the back of a motorcycle for one last ride, we must not pretend that the lost people we know are not “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). But neither should we condemn them for being lost, remembering that “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (v. 3).

Instead, we should be people of hope offering others the hope that has saved our souls and transformed our lives.

Why we all need hope

Webster defines hope this way: “To cherish a desire with anticipation, to want something to happen or be true.”

As you can see, hope requires an object. It does not exist as a thing unto itself. Your home is a building whether you are reading these words inside it or not. The furniture in your home is furniture whether you are sitting on it or not. But hope is not like that—it requires an object, a source. We hope in someone or something. We “cherish a desire with anticipation”; we “want something to happen or be true.”

You and I were created to need what hope offers. Psychologists associate hope with many positive outcomes, including greater happiness, better academic achievement, and even lowered risk of death. It provides resilience against anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. It even offers chemical benefits in the form of endorphins and lowered stress levels.

How, then, can we have more hope?

An expert identifies the 3 components of hope

Dr. Charles R. Snyder, a pioneer in hope research and author of The Psychology of Hope, wrote that hope has three components: goals, agency, and pathways. We need a goal that transcends us, something worth living for. We need agency, the ability to shape our lives to accomplish our goals. And we need pathways, routes or plans by which to do so.

We can use the pandemic to illustrate his theory. The coronavirus vaccines have been giving hope to the world: we have a goal of surviving the virus, an ability to do so through the vaccines, and a pathway to receive them. Then came the announcement of an omicron variant that might evade vaccines and make the pandemic start over, and our hopes have fallen.

Now we are hearing the possibility that omicron could be more infectious but less serious than delta and other variants. If so, many people could get it, survive it, build immunities to it, and turn the pandemic into an “endemic”—something we can live with, like the flu. I am not saying this will turn out to be true, merely that some scientists believe it could be one outcome.

How does this possibility make you feel? That’s hope. We have the same goal of surviving the virus, but once again we have the agency and pathways to do so.

A Christmas prayer for hope

Christmas offers us a hope we can find nowhere else. A goal built into our souls by our Creator is to live in intimate personal relationship with God; “our hearts are restless until they rest in him,” as St. Augustine noted. However, we fallen humans have no agency by which to forgive our sins, no pathway to escape hell and spend eternity in heaven.

We could not come to God, so God came to us. Now our soul’s deepest goal can be realized each and every day. We have the agency to come to the Christ of Christmas in repentance for our sins and commune with him in his word and worship. When we do, he makes the pathway by which we experience his hope in our hearts and share his hope with our hopeless world.

Charles Wesley authored a Christmas prayer I invite you to join me in praying every day this blessed season:

O Thou who camest from above,

the pure celestial fire to impart

kindle a flame of sacred love

upon the mean altar of my heart.

There let it for thy glory burn

with inextinguishable blaze

and trembling to its source return,

in humble prayer and fervent praise. 

Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire

to work and speak and think for thee;

still let me guard the holy fire,

and still stir up thy gift in me. Ready for all thy perfect will,

my acts of faith and love repeat,

till death thy endless mercies seal,

and make my sacrifice complete.

NOTE: Christmas is almost here, which means the end of the year isn’t far behind. So I want to let you know about a $2 million goal that Denison Forum must meet by December 31 to step into 2022 with the strength needed to help more people discern the news differently. Generous friends have stepped forward with a $225,000 Matching Grant, which will DOUBLE any gift to hit the vital year-end target. So please give today, and thank you for your support at this important time.

Publication date: December 6, 2021

Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/imtmphoto

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

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