Editor’s Note: With sponsorship from Multiplication Network, The Banner’s 2022 Young Adults Writing Contest took place this summer, with 35 young adults submitting essays on the topic “What gives you hope?” This is the second-place winner. You can read the other winning essays here.
In a country of economic hardships and unrelenting rebel activity, a man had finally, finally scraped up enough money to build his dream home—a house with a tin roof. That shiny, silvery tin showed accomplishment, the fruit of long toil in the hot tropical sun. But his family didn’t even enjoy it for a month. A rebel group came, burning and killing all in their way. Cruel blades cut flesh—people felled as mercilessly as trees. Gardens and livelihoods were destroyed. And his home was burnt to the ground. He fled with his family and in a displaced-people camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All that covered them was a donated tarp. In that camp we, my missionary parents and I, listened to his story. And I wondered, how could he ever muster up the courage, the audacious hope to rebuild?
At the local hospital, a child lay bandaged up, the sole survivor on a truck fleeing the oncoming rebels. They were ambushed and everyone was killed, the boy only escaping because the dead bodies of his companions covered his small frame. Beside him lay a girl, her head wound up in white gauze to hide a cruel gash on her skull by a machete. Next lies a man, staring at the world, at us, with dark eyes. Have you ever seen hopeless eyes? There is no light, no joy, no hope. It is like staring into a void, a pool of emptiness, a universe with no stars. A man with no life left but a beating heart and expanding lungs. His feet were missing toes. I gagged and fled the sight. In the face of such evil and suffering, where is God and where is hope?
Fast-forward a couple of years.
The minutes dragged by slowly. My sister and I had given up on sleep and sat on the couch staring into the darkness, waiting. Our sister, who had excitedly announced her pregnancy nine months ago, now labored long through the night to give birth to a child that the doctors said would not live. A rare condition called anencephaly meant that his little skull had not formed to protect his brain. But we hoped against hope. People prayed for healing, for isn’t that what a good God would do? At least he could grant the baby, affectionately named Jedidiah, enough heartbeats for us to meet him. And we waited. The suggestion of dawn began to creep into the living room. The text came. Jedidiah was born. Five minutes later the bomb dropped: he hadn’t survived. Tears blinded my eyes from the light streaking through the window. Joy did not come with the morning.
I have struggled deeply, and I have struggled long with hope. What is the purpose of living when what meets the eye and ear consists of such suffering and evil? When the power of the enemy and sin in this world wreaks such havoc, such pain? Any ideal of happiness and goodness is crushed under the weight of it, and I wonder: why hope?
Hopelessness. I see it in the averted eyes and stolen dignity of the homeless on our Canadian streets, in the questions of the man who digs through garbage cans for food and wonders what curse he is under, in the woman breaking down in tears in front of me because her wallet is empty, her kids are hungry, and she finds herself at our food bank. In the scrolling news headlines that tell of school shootings, famines, and strife. In the desire to give up because everything, wound up in one frightful load, is just too much to bear.
What gives hope? It feels so elusive in the darkest night, a cruel mockery in the face of suffering and evil. But hope, that simple, four-letter word, refuses to be conquered. Because God is a God of hope.
In my struggle to understand, God showed how important the resurrection is to our hope. For those displaced by violence, justice may be denied. They may never experience peace and prosperity. But one day, before the throne of God, every tribe, tongue, and nation will gather. Justice will be served, the wrongs made right, and the tears wiped away. And on that day, the King will say to my Congolese brothers and sisters in Christ, “Well done, my good and faithful servants,” for through the fire of tribulation and suffering their faith has been refined and made pure. Then it will be found that the suffering of this present time cannot compare with the glories to follow. That gives me hope.
Eternal hope is crucial. But what about here and now? If eternal hope is all we have, why not die and hasten heaven? In the dark night while we waited for news of the birth of my nephew, a verse came to mind: “I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living” (Psalm 27:13, NASB). The goodness of God. Hope. Now and here.
What gives me hope in this life? It is believing that I will see the goodness of God. Indeed, it is all around me if I would only open my eyes. It is in the flower that blooms full of promise and the bird that heralds the morning in gusty song. It is in the loving word, kind smile, reaching arms, and touching hands of people. It is in the stories shared when hope conquered despair. It is in the song and dance of the displaced people in Congo on Easter Sunday. It is in the assurance that I will meet Jedidiah one day in heaven. Hope is everywhere because God’s goodness is everywhere. And not only will I see it, but I will be part of bringing it to a despairing world. And so we hope, for how can we not when we serve a risen King?