Thursday, June 09, 2011

Looking for Hope

TITLE: Looking for Hope
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 9 June 2011

Vancouver’s home ice-hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks has accomplished a lot this year, much more than previous years. Winning the Presidents’ Trophy for the very first time, it is widely acknowledged as the best team in the National Hockey League for the year 2011. At the post-season playoffs, they have also demonstrated resilience in coming back to defeat their nemesis, the Chicago Blackhawks, overcoming the Nashville Predators, and steamrolling over the San Jose Sharks to win the top prize of the Western Conference. Fans throughout the province who have been captivated by the success of the Canucks, have made many restaurants and bars profitably happy. The mood in the streets is chirpy. People everywhere are understandably hopeful that this year will be the year the Canucks will bring back the coveted Stanley Cup.

After winning the first two games, city folks have helped to drive up ticket prices, increased police presence on the streets, and sparked a huge demand for Canucks jerseys and memorabilia. After losing the next two games, many were left in a state of shock. They don’t know what hit them.

Hanging on the balance
What do we do when our last hope is hanging on the balance? On the one hand, we do not want to ‘jinx’ the probability of winning. On the other hand, we are careful not to put all our hopes in one hockey team for the fear of being disappointed. Where then is hope?

Today, the city is much more subdued. The local team has lost miserably to the Boston Bruins. According to one report, ticket prices have fallen a whopping 40%! So much for fan loyalty. As quick as some people are to embrace the Canucks as their team, so quickly they lose their enthusiasm, and their hopes as well.

I know of some people who will pray for the Canucks during a tense game situation. Incredibly, losing is not an option. Losing to a hated team is anathema. How does hope look like when the results hang on the balance?

Expression of Hope in the Psalms
The Psalms of David are filled with all kinds of emotions. It expresses both joy as well as sorrow, gladness and sadness; hopefulness and hopelessness. That is why reading the Psalms is one way of enabling us to express our humanness in our world of ups and downs. One popular Psalm is Ps 42. Beginning with a reference to a deer panting for waters, so too are people who longs deeply for God. Being taunted by enemies, forsaken by loved ones, misunderstood by friends, it is a lonely journey to bear emotions of hurt. The Psalmist finds strength in taking refuge in God.

"Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence." (Ps 42:5)

This verse probes inside a person to ask what is troubling the heart. The Psalmist recognizes that the soul is going through a hard time. It is in despair. It is in turmoil. The Hebrew expresses this cry of the heart as ‘roaring’ its cries. It is intense. The whole being is shaken.

Meekly, there is a glimmer of hope. Gently, the psalmist pulls back from total self-destruction. Firmly, he gathers himself to recognize the reality of WHO is in control. It is not the emotional turmoil. It is not the enemy. Neither is it the circumstances that led to the troubled heart. He yearns for God. He lives on in hope. He embraces the LORD Almighty as the Giver of all hope. God’s presence is all he needs.

As we increase our awareness that the LORD is in control, we decrease our tendency to yield ourselves to things outside of our control. When we gaze upon the Face of God, we will not be easily moved or shaken by the events of the world. Instead of banking all of our hopes in mere results of a hockey game, an examination result, or an important contract, we ought to sit our hearts in our Creator God. Only God alone satisfies. Only God alone purifies. Only God alone supplies us all things. Including hope.

For fans of Vancouver Canucks, do not fret. Do not fear. May the best team win. More importantly, let us pray that the home team will play with winning hearts and in true sportsmanship. Do not lose sight of the meaning of a game. It is just a game. Allow it to bring out the best in us. Regardless of the results, may it bring out the best not only among the players, but among all supporters near and far. I will rather the home team lose graciously and with sportsmanlike behaviour, than to win at an ugly cost. Life is more than a hockey game. Let us put our hopes not on the results, but on the living God.

Game 5 is tomorrow. Bring on our hopes. It is not the winning or losing. It is the hoping that brings life.


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