"And this hope does not disappoint us." Romans 5:5
In the movie “Cast Away” Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx employee stranded on a South Pacific island, the sole survivor of a plane crash. We see the intense loneliness of this man as he tries to cope with all the challenges he faces. Over a four year period he learns to hunt and fish. He makes a home, but he misses terribly his life back in the states and especially his fiancée, Kelly.
One day the tide brought in a crate with some material he used to make a raft and a sail. He struggled past the reef and the winds eventually blew him into the shipping lanes where he was rescued. Back home he finds that Kelly has married and started a family. He is sad but understanding. Life for him, in many ways, was still as challenging as his years on the island.
In one moving scene he is talking to a friend about his experiences on the island and the hopelessness he had to continually confront. He tells about an occasion where he was ready to give up:
“I realized that I was never going to get off that island. I was going to die there, totally alone. I was going to get sick or injured. I would die. The only choice I had, the only thing I could control was when and how and where that was going to happen. I made a rope and went up the mountain to hang myself. I had to test it and the weight of the log snapped the limb of the tree. I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing. That’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew somehow I had to stay alive. I had to keep breathing even though there was no reason to hope, and all my logic said I would never see home again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept on breathing. Then one day that logic was proved all wrong. The tide came in and gave me a sail and now here I am, talking to you. I have ice in my glass, and I’ve lost her all over again.
“And I know what I have to do. Gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide will bring?”
I'm writing this on the first Sunday of Advent. The theme today is hope, the powerful desire for something better in the future. We remember today that for centuries God’s people looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. They hoped when they had little visible reason to hope.
You probably need a revival of hope. People are less hopeful today. We tend to be more apocalyptic, living in an era where more and more often we feel pressed and stressed, fearful in the present and hopeless about the future. The personal circumstances of your life may be exceedingly difficult.
You may be like the person who said “if not for stress I’d have no energy at all.” Or you may be like the Christian who said, “I know God won’t give me more than I can handle, I just wish He wouldn’t trust me so much!” You may be like a friend of mine who told me one time, “I really need an Advent this year.” You need hope, and God gives it freely.
But understand, hope does not take away the tension or stress. In fact, you need to "feel" the tension of hope. Hope is not a loud and simplistic solution. It is more of a whisper. It calls for trust and patience, and more patience, and still more. It is the present wrapped and under the tree, but you don't know what it is, and you don't even know when you can open it. Hope is like light, silent but real, pointing the way. You know it is there, and it reminds you of a wonderful God who loves you dearly and, in His own time and way, is bringing you to completion in Christ Jesus.
This hope does not disappoint, as Paul wrote. So keep breathing. Keep living. Keep trusting. Keep hoping.
Dr. Terry Ellis
December 2, 2012