Have you ever lost hope?
I paused after typing that question, thinking to myself, “Have I ever lost hope?” There have certainly been difficult periods in life, and I know I have become very frustrated, very anxious, and very sad. But I don’t know that I have lost hope, at least in the sense of losing all hope. I’m talking about losing hope in a final sense, to the point where a person thinks seriously about committing suicide. I know I haven’t been at that point. Maybe you have. Maybe you know the feeling of darkness creeping in, when it seems there is no way out. Even then, hope is not lost.
Though we might not have encountered that final sense of lost hope, my guess is that we have experienced at least a partial loss of hope. Last night we were watching Conestoga Valley High School’s varsity boys’ soccer team play Penn Manor. In the first half, CV dominated, keeping the ball on Penn Manor’s side of the field nearly the whole half, pounding shots at the goal, but they were unable to put one in the back of the net. There was no doubt that CV is the better team, but the score was 0-0. Early in the second half, though, with the ball yet again on Penn Manor’s side, the Comets’ defense cleared the ball, and they caught the CV defense a bit flat-footed. In the ensuing breakaway, Penn Manor scored a goal. At this point in the game, CV probably had 95% possession, and loads of shots on goal, but scored none of them. Penn Manor had one shot on goal, and they scored it. But hope was not lost, as there was lots of time on the clock. We could tell that after trying so hard, getting so close, now being down 0-1 was an emotional setback for the CV team. But CV did not give up the fight, knowing that when you keep possession, taking shots, invariably one will go in. Then Penn Manor scored another breakaway goal. Now down 0-2, and with time dwindling, CV had a mountain to climb. They kept fighting, kept shooting, and nothing was going on. Still, hope is not lost. Yes, scoring goals in soccer is difficult, but with CV’s skill, speed and fight, they could do it, even with the game clock under five minutes. With the ball near the midfield stripe, a Penn Manor defensive back took a rocket shot, sailing it over the unsuspecting CV keeper’s outstretched arms, and into the goal. Even though it was a high school game, I wouldn’t be surprised if that shot made ESPN’s SportsCenter highlights this morning. The Penn Manor team and fans went wild. It was one of the most impressive goals I have ever witnessed live. It was particularly grueling because, without question, CV is the better team. Maybe you know the feeling. It could be when you wanted a relationship to work, and you tried to work it out, but the pain was too deep, and the relationship broke apart. It could be when you studied and studied, in hopes of getting a high enough grade on the final test, so you could pass the course, and when the grade came back, you didn’t pass. Even then all hope, final hope is not lost.
There are times when life seems hopeless. It could be that you feel hopeless about our national political situation. Or maybe about paying off debt. Or about beating an addiction. Even then hope is not lost.
This coming week we study Ezekiel chapter 17, and we’re going to hear an interesting story about two eagles, a tree and a vine, that will teach us an important reminder about hope. Read it ahead of time and see what you think, then in the next post we’ll start talking about it.