My Journey to Hope

BACK THEN: My Own Hopelessness

As a teenager, I fell into a dark place. A very dark place! I felt no hope; there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Hopelessness and despair had consumed me, and so much so, I was convinced that death was the only way out! 

Obviously, I never made that fatal step and never made a suicidal attempt. What I did do daily is this; I would play with razor blades on my wrists and beg to God that I’d slip or that He would just end it all for me. 

Every Sunday evening, I went to church at the time. I went because my parents forced me too, not because I wanted too. In my own passive-aggressive resistance, I arrived late and left early, justifying myself to be consumed with all the depressing, judgmental and angry thoughts that circled throughout my whole being! 

Hope could not be found, so I returned home and played 2 Metallica songs “One" and "To live is to die" over and over and over again at full volume until the rest of my family came home. This is a snippet of what was left ringing in my ears...

Imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell"

"Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, wake me"

"Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, help me"

As a result of this aggressive routine, I actually started crying out to God like the man in the song. I would scream out these lyrics in desperation, pleading with God to save me from my hopeless fate, or as the other song says, “cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home.”

I had tried other avenues of hope, but I couldn't find it! Anywhere. Eventually, after trying to escape or run from Jesus, I cried out to Him and clung on to the tiniest little bit of hope I could muster. The light I saw was tiny and faint and something I didn’t want to reach for! But, I thought why not reach out to this, as nothing else has worked. 

I know this is unusual, but it’s my story. Testimonies usually cry of being consumed by a great light, coupled with undeniable hope! My journey was a reluctant one. I reached out to Someone I wanted to disappear and ignore, but at that stage in my life and with the utter hopelessness I felt, I thought “hell, nothing else works, why not Jesus?” 

With only a tiny "mustard seed" of hope, I asked what if it's true? What if Jesus truly does love me? What if He is able to save me, forgive me, have mercy on me, give me life and so forth? As a result, I humbled myself and took a leap into the unknown. 

That light didn’t suddenly shine with blinding force, no, that light gradually (over years) got a little brighter and brighter. I was still plagued by doubt, but just like the daddy who hopelessly watched his baby boy repeatedly injury himself, I found myself crying out to Jesus, "I do believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:14-29) Just as a mustard seed starts small and is barely visible, hope can grow into something undeniably beautiful and fulfilling. I found this happening to me.

I want us to cling onto whatever little nugget of hope we have because God will take it and make it grow. He will take that dim light and transform into something bright and undeniable. 

NOW: My journey or discovery 

I’ve always been a sensitive guy; injustice, inequality, and oppression has always troubled and distressed me, causing me to give up on hope.

As a youngster growing up in New Zealand I couldn’t handle knowing how unjust and unfair the world was. The injustice I observed crippled me emotionally, helping me realize how truly helpless and hopeless I was in the midst of it all! Maori, Polynesians, and women were being ostracized and marginalized around me. There was nothing I could do about the innocent victims of war and poverty around the globe. And on a personal level, I felt weak and cowardly when my dad was harassed by someone in our church for being just a "poor plumber" (because he wasn’t an accountant), or my mum was left in tears by two men for preaching a great sermon (because she wasn’t a man), or my friend who was constantly made fun of and bullied. 

I felt weak! I felt fragile. I felt powerless! I wanted to defend the ones I loved, but I couldn’t. I wanted to fight for the oppressed and relieve their pain, but I couldn’t. It’s hard to want to save and rescue others, only to realize I was just a shy cowardly kid who was also bullied and needed to be rescued also! It made me realize hope in this world is nothing but a fleeting illusion.

A few decades later and I’m even more aware how hopeless it all is! Hopelessness surrounds me: I work in a homeless shelter and visit jail a couple times a month! I see how the wolves prowl around, seeking to destroy the weak and vulnerable. I watch the predators use the likes of gentrification and laws to suppress and silence. Oppression continues. Racism continues. Violence continues. Bullying continues. Sexism continues. Classism continues. Wars are still being waged. Our leaders are corrupt and perverted. The gap between the rich and poor is widening. The War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration is destroying lives. The earth is in rapid decay, and nothing seems to be improving. 

I could easily go on! What about those experiencing homelessness, or Palestinians, or immigrants, or First Nations, or those who identify as LGBTQ? The trauma so many in this world experience daily because of who they are is real and frightening, while our leaders get drunk off power and money, allowing and even promoting continued violence, oppression, discrimination, and blatant abuse against them. 

I’ve painted a dark place because the world is a dark place that only seems to be getting darker, so where does hope come into play? 

When I cried out to Jesus, hope was only a dim light, a risky leap into the unknown. Yet now, despite how much it all sucks, I'm hopeful. Hope has actually become a bright consuming light! 

My hope has grown, not because of anything I’ve done, but because Jesus loves us and wants a relationship with us! I’ve been on a journey of discovering God’s love and how He has flipped everything upside down and reversed the order of things. This has helped me find hope in a time of abandonment and in my weakness. 

The Apostle Paul, who was doused with 1st-century privilege and had the world at his fingertips, wrote these very contrary words; words that should give all who feel helpless and fragile, hope: “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9-10)‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Hope doesn’t come through trying to conquer. Hope doesn’t come through violence, intellect, and power. Hope comes through the struggle, humility, and weakness! Hope doesn’t disappoint, as she shines through tribulations, perseverance, and proven character. (Romans 5) It’s a contradiction. It’s confusing. It doesn’t make sense! Yet, it’s the way of the Slaughtered Lamb who was Resurrected to give us life and hope. 

Jesus came in weakness, as a helpless baby. He was chased, harassed, and oppressed by politicians, the elite, and religious thugs his whole life. Jesus died as a criminal on a torturous death machine, yet He rose again, changed the course of history and now gives hope to the weak, the outcast, the prisoner, the refugee, and anyone who’s poor and oppressed in this world. 

Though He had all power at His disposal to overthrow the government and obliterate his oppressors, Jesus chose weakness to bring us hope. The good news of the gospel is good news to everyone who's been victimized and oppressed by the "powers-that-be". God has a special love for those the world rejects, bullies, and despises. 

This good news gives me hope, one that does not disappoint! Hope to bring God’s Loving Kingdom in my neighborhood and world! Jesus didn’t ignore His hectic surroundings, He didn't sit back in comfort watching all the chaos and dreaming of heavenly rewards. No! He rose up, embraced courage and brought the Kingdom of God to His neighbors, encouraging us to do likewise! 

Jesus tells us that He flipped the script so we can flip the script too! He came to bring “good news to the poor”, we must also! He came to bring “release to the captives”, we must also! He came to help “the blind to see”, we must also! He came to help “the oppressed find freedom”, we must also! He came to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”, we must also! He came bringing the Kingdom of God, which gives anyone who’s downtrodden hope. We, like the One we follow, must bring His loving Kingdom into our midst also!

In this world full of abuse, distress, addiction, mass incarceration, and corrupt governments, I'm hopeful. Hope means we should not give in and just live with wishful thinking, hope means fighting for what we believe in and bringing His Kingdom to earth. Hope means doing! We still have to fight with and for those who are oppressed, because Jesus promises to make everything right! In His Kingdom, it’s a relief to know that the old order will pass away, and in the new order, as new creations, God elevates those who’ve been trampled on, giving them seats of honor in His new eternal Kingdom! 

We need to do likewise - right now! As followers of Jesus, we need to follow Him, by bringing hope to those around us by displaying the love, compassion, and beauty of His Kingdom to those who are weak and fragile! 

Hope does not disappoint, for Jesus made promises and did things that we can cling onto and do likewise. Find Hope in these words and actions of Jesus...
  • He proclaimed, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first”
  • He proclaimed woes to the elite and hypocrites, letting them know that they have received their rewards already.
  • He proclaimed that those normally excluded and rejected in this life will get priority seats at his banquet table. 
  • He listened to the rejected and despised Samaritan woman, gave her hope and brought her freedom. 
  • He saved the woman caught in adultery from being stoned to death by a bunch of savage hypocrites.  
  • He focused on and helped those who the crowds told to shut up and go away because they were deemed unworthy. 
  • He comforted the criminal dying on the cross next to him with these words; “I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise”. 
  • He made it clear that those with many sins are forgiven and know how to love.
  • He announced that the poor are blessed and the kingdom of God is theirs.
  • He announced that those who weep now are blessed and will laugh and find comfort.
  • He announced that the hungry are also blessed, for they shall be satisfied. 
  • He announced that those persecuted, reviled, hated, and excluded are also among those blessed, for a great reward awaits them in heaven.
  • He came to bring good news to the poor.
  • He came to release prisoners
  • He came to help the blind to see
  • He came to set the oppressed free.
  • He came to break chains and give us a new life
  • He came, died, and rose again to give us eternal life - where injustice, oppression, and death is finally conquered. 
These words and deeds of Jesus give me hope; a hope that does not disappoint! This is the God we serve, this is the One who loves us! He is the One who makes everything right and invades our lives with His grace and hope! 

“Suffering naturally gives rise to doubt. How can one believe in God in the face of such horrendous suffering as slavery, segregation, and the lynching tree? Under these circumstances, doubt is not a denial but an integral part of faith. It keeps faith from being sure of itself. But doubt does not have the final word. The final word is faith giving rise to hope.”
― James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree

A brief summary of why I wrote this: There's a ministry on the West-side of Chicago called Mission: USA; every Tuesday night they have a Church service called The BRIDGE. Their services are open to everybody, but especially those who find it hard to gel in their local congregations! Or to put into cruder terms; a lot of these men and women are ex-offenders, homeless and low-income folk who have felt ostracized and rejected by many churches, so their mission is to be a bridge between prison, the streets, and the Church. The Bridge helps these wonderful men and women find churches that will welcome them with open arms..... 
And isn't this exactly what the Gospel and the "Kingdom of God" are all about? 

Every Tuesday night, The Bridge has a host team from a Church, who greet the guests and provide a meal. The guests anonymously submit questions about their "walk of faith", and staff from The Bridge pick out a relevant question. Meanwhile, they have invited 3 pastors from 3 different churches to come and give a 10-minute sermon each about this specific question or topic. In my humble opinion, this is a great concept and ministry, whose staff is very loving, compassionate and supportive to the "least of these".
This was adapted from a sermon I preached on 7/10/18, in response to this question; "How Do I Have Hope?"
"So many things around me are so terrible, and I want to either lose my temper or just give up. How do I have hope when things are so awful?"


Popular Posts

It's Political: Building Up and Casting Out

Malachi's Woes!

It’s Political: The Punishments Do Not Fit The Crimes

It's Political: Deemed Unworthy and Unsightly

Troy. Rest In Peace....