I believe we are experiencing a crisis of hope.
According to the CDC (2021), suicide rates have slightly increased for ages 10-34. The most significant jump is aged 25-34, up 5% from last year. Nearly one in five U.S. American adults live with a mental illness, 51.5 million to be exact. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) affects more than 16.1 million adults, 6 million adults suffer from Panic Disorder (PD), and 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old suffer from anxiety-related disorders.
We are in a crisis of hope.
The COVID-19 pandemic increased many of the risk factors associated with suicidal behavior, adverse mental health conditions, substance misuse, and job or financial stress, and who can blame us for losing hope in uncertain times such as these. Just turn on the news. You’ll already see that what I am writing to you is accurate. The opposite of hope is hopelessness, and we turn to the comforts that life offers us to make us feel something again, to make us feel whole again, to make the distance between ourselves and hopelessness grow when we find out a loved one has died, or a close friend is diagnosed with cancer.
The Gospel portrays hope as one of the Three Great Treasures of the human heart: “Three things will last forever Paul says, — faith, hope, and love” (1 Cor 13:13). These things aren’t simply “cute virtues” we hope someday to acquire by the time we die. No... faith, hope, and love are mighty forces in our soul, and hope is the cornerstone of our faith; the fate of faith and love depend upon our resilience to hope. To keep hoping...
Our faith and love “spring from” or “result from” our hope. But of course. Hopelessness makes it impossible to care or to move forward. This year, more than any year, I feel like I am barely holding onto hope; I wonder if you, too, feel this same way? If I’m being honest, it seems almost non-existent at times moving into next year. Yet, amid this lost hope enters Jesus and his “Gospel.” The way he chooses to describe his message of “Good News” is absolutely breathtaking:
I tell you the truth: at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne...everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:28)
At the renewal of all things?! The “Good News” Jesus speaks about means the renewal of all things? That’s how Jesus understood it; that’s how he described it. “The re-creation of the world,” “when the world is made new” (The Message, NLT). A promise so breathtaking, so shocking and beautiful I’m shocked more people do not cling to this very hope. Yes, we’ve heard quite a bit about “Heaven.” But Jesus is clearly not talking about “Heaven.” I believe it is simply this, at the renewal of all things, our hearts are given what our soul profoundly longs for. That everything and everyone we love will be restored and made entirely whole and holy again.
Every precious memory and every moment of beauty and goodness is restored back to us! It is this very promise that is foreshadowed in every sunrise. Every new flower bloomed at the first inkling of spring. Every wonderful day of vacation and the birth of a child. The secret to our crisis of hope lies at the doorstep of the “renewal of all things.” We are aching for the restoration of all things, even creation itself (Romans 8:19-23). A new great gift is given to us at the renewal of all things. The very gift of Jesus himself. Jesus offers us his unguarded, undistracted, fully present, fully engaged self with us.... forever. No more sadness, no more pain, no more loss. No, there is simply none of that anymore at the renewal of all things.
That is the only hope strong enough, brilliant enough, glorious enough to overcome the heartache and trauma of your world and mine. The author of Hebrews writes, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). The renewal of all things is the most beautiful, hopeful, glorious promise ever made in any story, religion, philosophy, or fairy tale in all of human history...
And it is real. And it is yours.
This Christmas season, our job is to “grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline” (Hebrews 6:18 The Message). Hold Fast, as the old sailors would say. Grab hard, hold tight with both hands.
This Christmas season, as we patiently wait for the coming of Christ and the coming of Christ again, let us hold onto this great promise.
Grace and Peace,
Andrew M. Forbeck MA, PLPC, NCC