by Dick Innes
James Lee, a young father, phoned a large city newspaper from a telephone booth to give a reporter a heart-rending story. The reporter frantically tried to have the call traced but was too late. By the time the police arrived, Lee had ended his life with a bullet in his head.
In Lee's coat pocket the police found a tattered crayon drawing signed in childish print by his daughter, Shirley, who had been incinerated in a fire five months earlier. On the drawing Lee had written, "Please leave in my coat pocket. I want to have it buried with me." At the time of Shirley's funeral Lee was so grief-stricken he had asked strangers to attend the funeral. Shirley's mother had passed away when Shirley was only two years old. There were no other family members to attend.
Immediately before his death, Lee told the reporter that he had nothing left to live for and felt all alone in the world. He gave his few possessions to the church that Shirley attended and said, "Maybe in ten or twenty years someone will see her memorial plaque and wonder who Shirley Ellen Lee was and say, 'Someone must have loved her very much.'"
James Lee lost all hope and ended his life in a lonely telephone booth. Tragically, his story is not an isolated case. Our world is filled with people who feel overcome with a sense of hopelessness.
Hope, like love, is an indispensable quality of life. Many people, when they lose it, curse the day they were born.
Contemporary society, with its slick promotion, promises hope in some very appealing packages, but when the chips are down we discover we have been sold a bill of goods.
For instance, hope is not found in science or technology. With all our highly-sophisticated technology we have discovered how to put man on the moon and fly spacecraft to Saturn and beyond. We have mastered instant global communications via radio and TV satellites. We have split the atom. We have built computers that can solve problems in seconds which only a few short years ago took weeks, months or even years to solve. And, mercifully, we have made remarkable advances in medical science. But we still haven't learned the art of getting along with our fellow man or how to meet the needs of the human heart.
Hope is not found in material possessions. In today's society we worship the god of materialism; measure success in terms of dollars and cents; and ignore the most important things in life--our emotional and spiritual needs. As a result, broken homes and divorce are shattering our families. Rape, child abuse, teenage pregnancies, and distorted sexuality have become a national disgrace while suicide and drug abuse have become national tragedies--all symptomatic of our sense of hopelessness.
Hope, like love, is an indispensable quality of life.
The wealthiest nation on earth, the United States, "now leads the world in the consumption of illegal addictive drugs, spending $220 million a day for them."1
Hope is not found in having a perfect body. Another obsession we cling to is physical attractiveness. The fact is that good looks have little to do with peace of mind. Attractive people are often very unhappy. Another fact is that physically handicapped people can be very happy if their emotional needs are being met, while those who have perfect bodies can be very unhappy if these needs are not being met.
Neither is hope found in what we call "success". By the time he was thirty-three, Bill O'Donnell had already scaled the heights of what our culture calls "success". He was vice-president of a big company, had an annual salary of $150,000, owned two Mercedes Benz cars and a very expensive home.
He was also cheating on his wife, missing meetings he had called, and was using four grams of cocaine a day.
Good looks have little to do with peace of mind.
"I was pursuing the American Dream, and I thought cocaine would get me there faster," he said. "I was running through life so fast I didn't see that my role as a husband and father was disintegrating, that my business abilities were crumbling."
This same article from The New York Times also stated that "drug abuse is just one of many symptoms of growing malaise: Not only Mr. O'Donnell, but tens of thousands of young people are finding that in achieving business success today, they have distorted their lives and fallen into emotional turmoil."2
This malaise is by no means peculiar to North America. The whole Western world is affected. While we are exceptionally grateful for the many achievements that have alleviated so much physical suffering, we have unfortunately neglected some of the equally or more important issues of life. We have starved the spiritual, for example, and edged our society closer and closer to spiritual bankruptcy.
As a nation we have forgotten God. We may give lip service to him, and most say we believe in him, but in our manner of life we have pretty much ignored him.
Despair, drugs, disease, depression, crime, murder, loneliness, wars, terrorism, greed, loss of hope are all symptoms of a sin-sick society. We gloss over sin and call it anything but what it is. Regardless of what we call it, anything that falls short of the perfection that God envisioned for us is sin. And all sin is ultimately self- destructive. That's why God is so opposed to it. It destroys that which he loves--us. It is the most deadly sickness there is. Its end result is physical, spiritual and eternal death. We are all affected, for we have all sinned. Until we call sin what it is and treat it accordingly, there is no hope.
Once we confess our sinfulness, God himself will bend the heavens to come to our rescue. In fact, two thousand years ago he did just that. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth as a man to die in our place to pay the penalty for our sin, which is death, so he could freely forgive us and give us hope.
When we receive God's forgiveness by confessing our sinfulness and responding to his call to invite Jesus Christ into our hearts and lives as Lord and Savior, God gives us a new spiritual life and the gift and hope of eternal life. He also gives us hope for this life. He doesn't promise us a bed of roses, but no matter what happens to us, when we have genuinely committed our lives to Jesus Christ, we know that God will use everything that happens to us for our good, to help us grow and become strong in character and ready for anything. This is God's promise.3 It is the greatest hope in all the world. Have you made Jesus Christ your hope?
1.Eternity, November, 1986. 2.The New York Times, August 24, 1986. 3.James l:2-4,(TLB).