By H. Lynn Gardner
Our 34-year-old son died in a truck accident in 1999. Four months later, tests revealed I had a terminal lung disease. A few years later my wife learned she had breast cancer. Such events test one’s faith and hope.
Facing death makes one think seriously about the meaning of life and the life to come. You ask, “Is my faith real? Is my hope solid? Do I really believe what I say I believe?”
We grieved deeply because of the loss of our son, but not as those “who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Our living hope based on Christ’s resurrection gave us the courage to face these realities.
The Perspective of Hope
In dealing with our son’s death, we did not question God because our faith in the crucified Savior and resurrected Christ gave us hope. A week after Mark’s death, I resumed my teaching in Bible college with the reassuring topic of the resurrection of Jesus.
In 2000, I learned that I had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Doctors gave me three years to live. Of those proven to have this disease, less than 1 percent receive a transplant and survive IPF. Medical research has not identified a cause nor discovered a cure. I prepared to die. Our faith in the risen Christ gives strength each day and confident hope for life beyond the grave. As Christians, we have a perspective for facing life’s challenges.
Medical science and God’s healing hand gave me a double lung transplant on June 15, 2004, providing me an extended lease on life. In 2005, we encountered another serious challenge—Barbara’s breast cancer. She had surgery and three months of chemotherapy. We live in a fallen world. We do not blame God when bad things happen to us. We trust him and depend on him to give us strength and peace. The reality of Christ’s resurrection provides a rock solid foundation demonstrating the truth of the Christian faith.
Peter reminds us,
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).
The death and resurrection of Christ not only ensures our future home in Heaven, but also reminds us that we live as heavenly citizens while in this life (Philippians 3:20, 21).
Hope gives a long-range perspective. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14, ESV). When we lose a believing loved one we have a greater investment in Heaven and an increased anticipation of Heaven. In the midst of hardships, Paul says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18, NIV). Christ’s resurrection demonstrates the reality of eternal life and enables us to approach life with an eternal perspective.
The Assurance of Hope
Fears and anxieties about death haunt those who have no hope. Because of our hope in the risen Christ, we have confidence in eternal life. Our Lord assured us, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). He declared, “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40, ESV). I knew if I died I would have the best deal and I wanted the best for Barbara if that happened. Our resurrection faith gives us stability and hope.
In the late Middle Ages men speculated about the possibility of a sea route to India. Could one navigate around the south tip of Africa? No one knew for sure. Attempts to round the cape had failed. Many wrecks occurred in the treacherous area where the Atlantic and Indian oceans met. Sailors called it the Cape of Storms. At last, Vasco da Gama successfully rounded the cape and reached the East. They renamed the cape the “Cape of Good Hope.”
Michael Green draws this comparison.
Up to the time when Jesus died and rose again, death was like that of the Cape of Storms, littered with wrecks. Until his successful rounding of that Cape and return, men had nothing to go on but speculation about the afterlife. His resurrection has turned it into the Cape of Good Hope. He has opened up for his people a way to a new and rich land which he has shown exists. And because he has satisfactorily rounded that perilous Cape, he is well equipped to act as pilot to others.
The truth of Christian faith and hope stands verified by Jesus’ resurrection from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:1-20). Because Christ lives, we have assurance that his death saves us from our sins, and we have a certain hope in life beyond the grave. In death we step through the doorway into our ultimate victory. This blessed hope guaranteed by our resurrected Lord empowers us to face life’s challenges.
The Reality of Hope
Sigmund Freud saw the Christian faith and hope as an escapist illusion resulting from people wanting a happy future to replace a painful present. It represented wish fulfillment, not reality, created by the need for security to overcome their helplessness.
We do not believe the Christian hope because we want it to be true. We believe it because Christ came to earth teaching truth about life and death and demonstrating that he holds the power over life and death by rising from the dead. Our hope is not a product of our subjective feelings and desires; it has an objective factual basis. It does have satisfying subjective benefits in our lives because it is true.
We have spiritual longings that this world cannot satisfy. C. S. Lewis observed,
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. . . . I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall never find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.
Instead of illusion created by an overactive imagination, these desires indicate that we are made for a future reality where these longings will be fulfilled. God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection from the dead and eternal life.
In spite of disappointments in this world, our living hope gives deep spiritual joy. Our joyful hope does not remove the trials and heartaches in this fallen world, but it enables us to see beyond hopeless situations. Our convinced faith, certain hope, and eternal perspective give peace as we daily live for Christ.
H. Lynn Gardner is a freelance writer in Carl Junction, Missouri.
Read More About Christ’s Resurrection and the Christian’s Hope
The Risen Jesus and Future Hope.
By Gary R. Habermas,
(Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003)
The Resurrection, Vol. 1: Heart of New Testament Doctrine
“Raised Like Jesus” and “A Foretaste of Heaven”
By Gary R. Habermas
(College Press, 2000)
The Resurrection, Vol. 2: Heart of the Christian Life
Chapter: “Fear of Death”
By Gary R. Habermas
(College Press, 2000)
People Who Grieve with Hope . . .
. . . remember who God is. He is a God of love, truth, justice, and mercy. Always.
. . . know that truth is deeper than the things we can see on this earth.
. . . believe that circumstances don’t change God’s
ultimate goal for our lives and the world.
. . . are compassionate to those around them even in the midst of pain and confusion.
. . . don’t squelch grief and anger but are careful to
direct it appropriately and submit it to God.
. . . seek a God-given balance between remembering the past and moving on to the future.