Summary: In our confusing and broken world, we can still have hope because of Jesus.
My own journey of hopelessness began when I was 15. As much as I wanted to believe in God, I could not.
I could relate to Tolstoy who recounts an
"old Eastern fable about a traveler who was taken by surprise in the steppes by a raging wild beast. Trying to save himself from the beast, the traveler jumps into a dried-up well; but at the bottom of the well he sees a dragon with its jaws open wide, waiting to devour him. The unhappy man does not dare climb out for fear of being killed by the wild beast, and he does not dare jump to the bottom of the well for fear of being devoured by the dragon. So he grabs hold of a branch of a wild bush growing in the crevices of the well and clings to it. His arms grow weak, and he feels that soon he must fall prey to the death that awaits him on either side. Yet he still holds on, and while he is clinging to the branch he looks up to see two mice, one black and one white, evenly working their way around the branch of the bush he is hanging from, gnawing on it. Soon the bush will give way and break off, and he will fall into the jaws of the dragon." Leo Tolstoy Confession page 30 (http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/confessions-tolstoy.pdf)
As he thought about his life and the inevitability of death, he was filled with despair. This was how I felt as a young man also.
In fact, when God is not part of the picture, the reasons for hopelessness are many.
As Roxanne Gay explains in her piece for the New York Times entitled "The Case Against Hope." (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/06/opinion/hope-politics-2019.html) In her article she says, "I don’t traffic in hope. Realism is more my ministry than is unbridled optimism. Hope is too ineffable and far too elusive."
Hopelessness was engulfing me as I came of age. And yet, like Tolstoy, Jesus, by his grace, shined into my darkness and showed me that he was real and life had meaning.
When we turn to Luke's gospel account of Christmas, we encounter the hopelessness of Elizabeth. Elizabeth would have said, "We are doing everything right, yet none of our hopes are being fulfilled."
Indeed, according to the Bible, the God of hope, allows his beloved people to languish, suffer and experience hardship, disappointment and loss.
But he also reserves the right to break in at the least expected time and turn things around.
“And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
We find hope by looking backwards – in history we see God showing up in unexpected ways in the incarnation and in the shocking pregnancy of Elizabeth.
We find hope by looking inward – in the gospel we have this promise that Christ dwells in us the hope of Glory.
We find hope by looking forward – in the resurrection we see a foretaste of the New Heavens and New Earth.
Consider these verses on hope.
Romans 8:18-24 NLT Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[j] including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved.
12 Isaiah said,
“The heir to David’s throne[f] will come,
and he will rule over the Gentiles.
They will place their hope on him.”[g]
13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds