The first week of term has been less than perfect. Sickness -5 out of 7. Disruption to routines, extra work demands. And yet as much as I craved time and space for me with all the little people back at school it didn’t really surprise me to have the week not go as planned. What is a plan anyway? And nothing – your week, relationship, work, holiday, health – is ever perfect, right? We fail. Sin is real. So why don’t we give up now and abandon future hope?
In my life—and I think it is the intended biblical pattern—hope is like a reservoir of emotional strength.
- If I am put down, I look to the emotional reservoir of hope for the strength to return good for evil. Without hope I have no power to absorb the wrong and walk in love, and I sink into self-pity or self-justification.
- If I experience a setback in my planning—I get sick, or things don’t go the way I’d hoped in the board meeting, for example—I look to the emotional reservoir of hope for the strength to keep going and not give up.
- If I face a temptation to be dishonest, to steal, to lie, or to lust, I look to the emotional reservoir of hope for the strength to hold fast to the way of righteousness, and deny myself some brief, unsatisfying pleasure.
That is the way it works for me. That is the way I fight for holiness in the Christian life.
In his book Miracle on the River Kwai,Ernest Gordon tells the true story of a group of POWs working on the Burma Railway during World War II.
At the end of each day the tools were collected from the work party. On one occasion a Japanese guard shouted that a shovel was missing and demanded to know which man had taken it. He began to rant and rave, working himself up into a paranoid fury and ordered whoever was guilty to step forward. No one moved. “All die! All die!” he shrieked, cocking and aiming his rifle at the prisoners. At that moment one man stepped forward and the guard clubbed him to death with his rifle while he stood silently to attention. When they returned to the camp, the tools were counted again and no shovel was missing.
What can sustain the will to die for others, when you are innocent? Jesus was carried and sustained in his love for us by “the joy that was set before him.’