a christian perspective on the world today

The Book of Hope

I had always heard that the Bible was the most published book in the world but that didn’t really hit me until I checked out the records about it. Since the invention of the printing press and the production of the Gutenberg Bible, the Bible has been the most printed book in history. It is estimated that there are somewhere between five and seven billion Bibles in the world with around 2.5 billion of those printed between 1815 and 1975. Since then, the Bible has continued to appear on bestseller lists, being printed at a rate of about 80 million per year. That means that in the 10 minutes you might take to read this article, around 1500 more Bibles have been printed. That’s a staggeringly large number of Bibles. A significant portion have been placed by a group called The Gideons. They have placed more than 1.7 billion in hotel rooms of more than 190 countries all around the world. Hotel Bibles aren’t as popular now as they used to be (it’s probably more important to have wi-fi) and some hotels have now gone the other route with many different religious texts being available upon request. At least one of the reasons Bibles were placed in hotel rooms was for those who might check in during a low point in their lives. Those Bibles were placed there to offer one thing: hope to those who had none.

Hope is in short supply. Despair is running rampant. To be clear, I’m not talking about the mental health condition of depression, rather about rates of reported pure despair. Despair is when we completely lose hope. The origin of the word comes from the Latin desperare—and is also where we get the modern English word desperate. When we have nothing to hope for in our current day-to-day or in the future and our outlook is bleak, we enter despair. When people feel that way for an extended period of time, it has a drastic impact on their health and happiness. We can feel this despair in different ways—perhaps in our thoughts, our minds circling negativity again and again, perhaps in our emotions, constantly feeling anger or irritation, or perhaps even having an “I don’t care” attitude. We could experience despair behaviourally and take more risks in everyday life, exhibiting behaviours that are out of character, often self-destructive, or we could feel it biologically, in that it can have an impact on our health itself as our body struggles to manage the amount of stress that despair can put on it. Or perhaps we could experience a mixture of those effects. Interestingly, despair isn’t only something that can affect individuals but can also impact communities. When widespread events occur that affect a country, town or school community, despair can spread socially through said community. All of this has led to an increase in what the literature calls “deaths of despair”. The accumulation of despair and its symptoms can increase the risk of early death, a combination of health issues, risky behaviour like drug abuse and perhaps even the ideation of suicide driving some to a final, devastating solution.

(Credit: Steven Lewis, Unsplash)

It’s hard to measure despair and all of us have felt a little of those symptoms at one time in our life or another. The danger comes when the one experiencing them is missing the essential ingredient of hope.

Hope is a want or desire for something that isn’t evidenced. It’s when we wish for something that seems normally unattainable. For me as a youngster, that meant a Nintendo gaming system. There was no way our family could ever afford one and I doubted my parents even knew what one was. But I would see it in the toy store in my hometown and inside I felt a little burning coal of desire, a wish that I would one day have one. My friend wanted one too but his parents had told him they would buy him one. He didn’t need hope—he had assurance. He at least let me know I could play on his but I really hoped for my own. This isn’t one of those stories where my parents bought me one—they really couldn’t afford it—and I never got one. But that didn’t stop me from wishing, and years later once I had a job of my own, the latest Nintendo gaming system was my first purchase. It wasn’t a big hope, but it was a hope nonetheless.

Growing up, hope seemed to become more important, not less, because the things I wished for got more complex. I hoped for a girlfriend, an easy life, that I would win the lottery, that I would be able to afford a car. Then as life got harder, I hoped I would have enough money for my next meal, that I would be able to pay rent. I’ve hoped for many things but the more I didn’t receive, the more hope I would lose. After losing hope enough I really started noticing it. I stopped wishing for as many things or big things and my hopes started dying a little. I found myself bitter and angry, my hopes crushed too many times. I didn’t get what I had hoped for, so instead I began to take things and I started stealing little things here and there to get what I wanted. I’m not proud of it of course and my little career in larceny came to a sudden halt one day when I was caught shoplifting and taken to a nearby police station. As I sat trembling in the interview room, I had lost all hope. I had nothing and my life was over.

Scriptures give us hope!
God knows we need hope to survive. While speaking with His chosen people in Jeremiah 29:11 He says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” God’s plans for His people have always included hope.

God is saying that He wants to give us hope, because many of the things we hope for in our ordinary wish fulfilment way end in disappointment. Instead God has a hope for us and He shares it with us in the Bible. I’ve recently observed people taking a section or two out of context, trying to stir up trouble for social media clout with a very shallow view of what the Bible is. Personally, if I had to summarise it, I would say it is a message of hope from God to a people who so often have none left—hope for today and hope for tomorrow.

God says “You are not alone” by telling us that we are His, He loves us, He desires our good and He plans for us to have a good future. He says we can have hope when things are hard and that we don’t have to carry the weight of our despair. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” God tells us that we are forgiven, that He isn’t holding our bad deeds against us (2 Corinthians 5:19). Most of all, God gives us hope for the future and tells us that one day this world will be changed for the better, despair will disappear forever and we will be able to live with Him. Revelation 21:3 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”

Eventually the police officer came and took my statement, then left the room. After a half hour, he came back and told me that the store owner had decided not to press charges and that I was free to go. I felt relief of course, but most of all I felt hope that my future may not be so bad after all. I had been forgiven of my crime and I walked out of the police station excited for my future, this time deciding to set my mind on a hope that God had promised me. I hope you will open the Scriptures and find the hope that God has for you as well.

Justin Bone supports and trains pastors and congregations around Victoria, Australia, for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He is passionate about helping people understand the Bible better.

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