I know what drives your life. It’s hope.

  • Why do we choose the careers we chose? We hope to make lots of money. Or we hope to get paid for doing something we enjoy.
  • Why do we buy the things we buy? We hope to make life easier. We hope to experience pleasure. We hope to give our kids a good life.
  • Why do we follow Christ? We hope for eternal life. We hope to please Him.

Hope can be placed in a lot of things simultaneously, but when all those areas lose their hope, it’s easy to turn to suicidal thoughts. If a person sees no hope for anything—not even a distant light at the end of the tunnel—why keep on living?

We’re driven subconsciously by hope.

Let’s step back from ourselves and see that even culture—our collective society—is driven by hope. It frames the narrative of where we are going as a society. This collective hope also shapes our identity.

In his book, The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope, Andrew Delbanco identified three ways this narrative has played out in America. When looking at the big story—what life is all about—Delbanco wrote that American culture has been driven by three things: God, Nation, and Self.

1. God. From the earliest days of the colonies, the meaning of life and hope rested in God. We were to live and work for the glory of God. God (or Providence) remained in the forefront.

2. Nation. The United States grew and we prospered, chiefly because we were driven by an identity connected to God. But with that growth and prosperity—as we became more and more a nation to be reckoned with—our focus and identity moved from God to our nation. We are America, the greatest nation on earth! We could do what we wanted—and we were proud of it.

3. Self. An identity wrapped up in America began to change 50-60 years ago. Delbanco said we lost our sense of “a common destiny worth tears, sacrifice, and maybe even death.” [Delbanco, The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope (Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 96-97.] Yes, there is still an element of America-first nationalism, especially among ultra-conservatives (and seen in many Fourth of July church services where the American flag is practically worshiped). But we have shifted to an individual focus—a focus on me.

Look at the emphasis on individual rights. The benefits of living in a prosperous country have turned into inalienable rights. Consider the emphasis on raising the minimum wage (“I have a right to earn a good living.”) or the emphasis on a free college education (“The cost of tuition is denying my right to a college degree.”) If we don’t get what we want, we see ourselves as victims. The system is denying me my rights!

Society has turned into a society of individuals. We are self-focused and self-absorbed.

Both our hope and our identity must be wrapped up in Jesus Christ. All else will ultimately disappoint us and fail.

When I lose the job I built my hope on, where do I turn? If my identity is absorbed with being a writer (or a doctor or an ace salesman) what happens to my identity when I retire?

Where’s my hope when government leaders falter? I love this country, but it will fail me. America will ultimately join the other fallen empires like the Greeks and Romans in the history books. Where’s my national hope then?

Hope in anything self-oriented will fail. The gadgets, cars, and homes we build our hope and identity on will fail. Gadgets become obsolete, cars start leaking oil, and homes begin to look dated. Even if I get everything I feel is my right to have, where will that ultimately get me?

And finally, in the end, even our bodies fail. Our minds falter. We die. And for all our hope in country and self, what did we gain? But hope in God …

  • Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
  • “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Frankly, that’s the only hope I can count on. And that hope is what I choose to base my identity on.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).

Where’s your hope?

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