It was the last Sunday of September 1994. We were planning to have a special birthday party for our 11-year-old daughter and her friends, including going to an indoor pool with water slides. The phone rang just after we arrived home from church at noon and suddenly everything changed.
“Tim was having odd symptoms last night” sobbed my brother. “So we took him to McMaster Children’s Hospital and they have just confirmed that the brain tumour is back and nothing can be done.”
Tim was eight and had suffered much in his short life. Born with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus, he was no stranger to painful medical interventions but somehow became a very charming and winsome little boy anyway.
At age 4 he underwent brain surgery followed by a year of incredibly painful radiation and chemotherapy treatments to treat a cancerous brain tumour. The surgery and treatments took away most of his sight and mobility.
But gradually the pain lessened and Tim began to adjust to his new limitations while his bubbly personality again made him a delight to be around.
In the summer of 1994 we shared a vacation trip to the east coast and Tim did so well that all of his painful sufferings seemed to be fading into the past. September found him happily back at school at KidsAbility in Waterloo. His parents and our family had reason to hope for his future.
Until that September Sunday. To our daughter’s great regret we postponed the birthday party and my wife and I headed to Mac, where hope had been shattered so precipitously overnight. It was extremely hard – with nothing to do but embrace and cry and pray together. Thankfully excellent home palliative care was assembled, and Tim spent the last month of his life in a coma in his bedroom at home.
Human beings are through-and-through creatures of hope. There is almost nothing we can’t bear so long as we have hope, and there is not much we can bear without it.
Think of two workers hired to do the exact same repetitive, boring physical labour. The one has been promised $30,000 in pay if he stays for a year, the other $30 million. Who is going to have the greatest difficulty hanging in there for the year?
Ponder what woman would volunteer to undergo 9 months of significant physical discomfort and pain with growing bodily disfiguration all building towards kidney-stone-attack levels of labour pain, unless she was embracing a profound hope in and for the new life she and God were bringing into being.
The happiest and most functional and joyful people you know are people whose lives are soaked through with hope. Conversely, the most cynical, unhappy and least joyful folks you know live with little or no hope. Which are you?
Hope comes especially from living for and sacrificing for something bigger than yourself – like a pregnant mother does. In generations past many of our forbears were able to endure great hardship and work at very difficult jobs because their lives were energized by the hope of making a better life for their kids.
If you think of the people in your life who have been the most dear and special to you no doubt you will find that they were looking out less for their own welfare than for yours. In essence they “loved” you, which means they chose to hope in you by trying to make a positive difference in your life. Thus hope builds and strengthens relationships.
Conversely people who don’t choose to hope in others end up in the hell of selfishness and self-loathing, often succumbing to addictions – alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, adrenalin, etc. – in order to dull the pain.
Christian faith is nothing if not about hope. God loved and hoped in the world so much that He chose to send His Son knowing that ungrateful humankind would kill Him. On the cross love and hope – Jesus – resolutely battled all the worst that the forces of evil could bomb Him with, including death.
And when everyone thought evil had won, God with undying love and hope reached down and raised Jesus from the dead thereby giving hope forever after that evil, even with all of its devastating powers – death, injustice, violence, intimidation, hatred, scorn, suicide, murder, sexual abuse, torture, starvation, etc. etc. – will never overcome the love and hope of God.
My brother and sister-in-law – Tim’s parents – and our family were devastated by Tim’s sufferings and death. However we ‘did not grieve as those who have no hope’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Those who know Jesus/God know that what happens in this life matters a lot, including the sufferings and deaths. But we know even more deeply that what happens in this life isn’t the end of the story. In the life beyond death God will vindicate (condemn and make right) then heal all of the horrible things evil has inflicted upon humanity – upon you and me. Then God will give us life that is untainted by sin and evil – where Tim will be without any impediments or illnesses.
If this hope is not yet yours, please be encouraged to ask Christian folks who you recognize and respect for their love and hope, to help you.
Or just go directly to the top and ask God to help you receive it and own it.