Tuesday, January 06, 2009

When Hope Is Lost

This is sad news. A German billionaire took his own life because of the financial crisis affecting his investment. The question is: Could it have been avoided? My take is that Mr Merckle decided on this last resort as he lost all other hope. All that he has ever believed and trusted have crumbled. I feel really sad for his family too, who have to deal with the setback and all the emotional turmoil that comes with it. For those of us mere observers of this event, it is unfair to make further comments without knowing the full facts of the matter. I shall touch on the topic of "When Hope is Lost."

Victor Frankl's classic: "Man's Search for Meaning" is essentially about the meaning of life. When man is unable to find meaning in life anymore, he will also lose the capacity to live. It is essentially a two-step process. Firstly, one has to learn the lessons past. Secondly, one needs to look forward in hope that there is a brighter future. Chances are, those who fail to get past the 1st step will also be unlikely to complete the second step. Commenting on his resolve to survive while in the Nazi prison camp,
"We, too, clung to shreds of hope and believed to the last moment that it would not be so bad." (Victor Frankl, Man's Search For Meaning, Beacon Press, 1959, p28)
Those who know how close the connection is between the state of mind of a man - his courage and hope, or lack of them - and the state of immunity of his body will understand that the sudden loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect. (p96-7)
I think Frankl is exactly right. When we have lost all hope in our hearts, we too will lose any desire to live.

For the Christian, what is not as frequently taught in churches is this truth of hope in the future coming of the kingdom. Much has been said about doing better Christianity in our workplace, our culture engagement and our spiritual needs. How about helping one another reach out to God, to fellow people and ourselves by anchoring ourselves upon the Rock of hope? We can make lots of money in this short life, but we cannot bring it along with us when we die. We can achieve lots of titles and educational achivements but the most they will go is on the obituary page at the end, or the tombstone carving. We can make lots of friends but eventually they too will die off, in case we do not die before them. What remains is that sense of curiosity of why are we on this earth in the first place?

Some will claim that the purpose of living in this life is to do as much as possible. They strive to build a mountain of achievements, and hopefully create an endowment that benefits lots of other people. However, is that really the meaning for living?

Others will venture to survive this life, looking hopefully to a future where they will endure this present moment of suffering and embrace a future of bright joy. However, this is overly focused on the future without adequately addressing the present. For Christians who hold such a view, it will be like praying "Thy kingdom come only in heaven and not on earth."

Some others will simply take the narcissistic view, or the hedonistic view where pleasure-seeking dominates all activities. If-it-feels-good-do-it.

A sizeable majority will remain clueless about the meaning of life. They will simply carry on the daily life, not exactly sure what life is all about until a crisis emerge. I will argue that this is one of the most dangerous positions to be in. This is because, if we are not prepared, we subject ourselves to all manner of influences (both good and bad and evil), to the point that we lose the compass when we most needed direction. We lose our drive when we most needed life-goals. We lose our faith when we most needed hope. We open ourselves to all kinds of threats and fears of the unknown. When that happens, when all hope is lost, we crumble and fall.

However, Jesus reminds us constantly not to build our house on shifting sands of uncertainty, but on the solid rock of Christ our hope.
24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matthew 7:24-27)
Our hope in Christ is in the revealed Word of God in Jesus. Our hope in God is in the revealing kingdom of heaven that is coming down to earth. Our hope in the future is in God's promise that he will come again. Our hope is best reflected in this vision of God through the book of hope, the Revelation in the Bible.
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

5He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Rev 21:1-5)

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (Ps 28:7)


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