Despair v. Hope

“Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” – Acts 21:6 

Notice the construction of what Paul says.  Not “It is for my hope in the resurrection,” but rather “It is with respect to the hope and resurrection of the dead” that he was on trial.  In other words, the resurrection of the dead is the hope of the dead.  This only makes sense.  The only hope for the dead is to live again. 

A question naturally arises, “Why would anyone be put on trial because they have hope?”  The answer is sad, but simple.  Those who have no hope, who are hopeless, will never feel at ease with those who have hope.  Nor can those who are hopeless leave well enough alone with those who have hope.  Hope is a testimony against hopelessness, and those who have settled into their despair seethe against anyone who would stir their smoldering ashes of their hopelessness.  Misery loves company.  And misery hates hope. 

I.       DESPAIR 

I would like us to focus for just a moment on the degree to which the world has not only fallen into hopelessness and despair, but actually embraces it.  This dreadful trend can be seen in any number of cultural elements.  Let’s look at four. 

          A.      PHILOSOPHY 

You may have heard the story of the seasick passenger leaning over the rail of the ocean liner while turning various shades of green. A steward came along and tried to cheer him up by saying, “Don’t be discouraged, sir! You know, no one’s ever died of seasickness yet!” The nauseated passenger looked up and replied, “Oh, don’t say that! It’s only the hope of dying that’s kept me alive this long!” 

To a certain extent, this kind of nihilistic philosophy represents the 20th Century.  

“All the labor of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system…the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.” Bertrand Russell in A Free Man’s Worship 

 “Life has become, in that total perspective which is philosophy, a fitful pollution of human insects on the earth, a planetary eczema that may soon be cured; nothing is certain in it but defeat and death.” Somehow, that doesn’t come across to me as a “firm foundation.” Will Durant 

I once had a college student visit me for counseling.  He was so deep in despair that he had begun cutting himself.  I asked him why he did that, not in an accusing way but because to cut one’s own body is so far outside the realm of where I live and how I think that I needed help to understand.  I think he knew my question was sincere, and he answered me with equal sincerity: “I’ve been numb to life for so long.  As long as I can still feel pain, at least I know I’m still alive.” 

          B.      ART 

In the past, I have shown you visual arts that display a clear movement away from things that are aesthetically pleasing to things which are abstract and chaotic and tumultuous.  Indeed, the one piece of modern art that may capture the spirit of a generation is commonly called “The Scream.” 

And which artist ushered in the 20th Century and is perhaps the most famous artist of the generation?  Vincent van Gogh, who committed suicide at age 37. 

      C.      MOVIES 

Did you catch the movie “As Good As It Gets?”  Jack Nicholson plays a neurotic, mean-spirited, isolated author, with whom everyone identifies.  He sees a psychiatrist, and on one occasion, shows up for what he deems an emergency visit.  The shrink refuses to see him.  He leaves, but he’s clearly upset.  He returns to the waiting area, where a room full of people are waiting for their opportunity to sort out their lives, and asks the title line of the movie: “What if this is as good as it gets?” 

          D.      MUSIC

Parents, do you know the music that your kids are listening to?  I wanted to look up on the internet some lyrics that I already knew to make this point, but what I found were lyrics that I had never heard before because they come from a current genre of music that I simply don’t listen to.  Consider these lyrics, and what they say about Generation Next:

Hopeless (by Breaking Benjamin, from Dear Agony

Here I lie forever, sorrow still remains
Will the water pull me down and wash it all away?
Come and take me over, welcome to the game
Will the current drag me down and carry me away?
Suddenly the light begins to fade…

HOPELESS! I’m falling down
FILTHY!   I can’t wake up
I can not hold on, I will not let go
WORTHLESS! It’s over now
GUILTY!   There’s no way out 
I can not hold on, I will not let go.

Silent eye goes under, I am not afraid.
I can see the daylight shine and slowly drift away.
Safe to say it’s over, sink into the break,
There’s nothing left inside, But I am wide awake
I can hear the devil call my name…

Hopeless (by This Providence) 

Are you aware I’m fake?
Are you aware I’m everything I hate?
Does it make you proud
When I entertain a crowd?

My steady hands are stained
No amount of blood could wash my sins away
I never felt so infected, So disconnected
Lock myself away, I got nothing nice to say 

Does it make you feel cold
To know that I would never die for you?
I would never, ever die for you 

Young & Hopeless (by Good Charlotte) 

‘Cause, I’m young and hopeless,
I’m lost and I know this.
I’m going nowhere fast, that’s what they say.
I’m troublesome, I’ve fallen,
I’m angry at my father,
It’s me against this world
And I don’t care, I don’t care. 

That’s some world view, isn’t it? 

Well, next we will contrast this spirit of despair with the hope which Paul asserts.

gkr1996 posted at 2010-4-7 Category: Theological