(**Intro: This blog post was written by my good friend Cody Shepherd he is a Youth Pastor in Overland Park, KS I appreciate how his words are real and honest** )
What does hope sound like?
I know that’s probably a question that you don’t think of often. In fact, it’s an odd question. However, I would like for you to take a moment and reflect on what hope sounds like to you? There are probably a few sounds that come to mind when you ponder this question for awhile. Cumulatively we together could probably come up with a fairly extensive list.
To you hope might sound like a huddled group of men in football equipment excitedly yelling as they run out onto a field. To someone else it may be the patriotic sound of the star spangled banner being played on hot, cloudless day in July. Maybe it’s the brave sound of a single voice standing out in the crowd choosing to speak truth over lies. Maybe your sound of hope is found in the familiar voice of your spouse as they chose to speak vows of commitment to you on your wedding day.
I could easily come up with an extensive list of what hope might sound like to you. The amazing thing is that they can all symbolize to different levels aspects of hope; hope of success, hope of love, hope of truth, hope of happiness. What a beautiful thing hope can be.
Can I tell you about the sound that immediately popped into my head today as I pondered this question? To me hope is the barely audible sound of a whimper.
Let me better explain. To those who may not know the beginnings of the story of my son Jonathan, let me give you a little background.
Erin and I had decided in 2011 that we were ready to start trying to have a family. We weren’t 100 percent sure we would be able to have children. However, early in 2012 found out that we were pregnant. We got excited, we told our parents, we were ready to buy all of the things for a nursery. But then some of Erin’s number dropped and after a couple more tests we realized that this baby was not alive and was a danger to Erin’s body. It was ectopic.
Heartbreaking as it was we knew we could get pregnant. We were so excited the next year when we found out around December that we were pregnant again. We had fun announcing to our families through group gifts that revealed we were expecting. We started dreaming of the little baby that would cry, roll, crawl, and walk in our little house. I would get so excited that while Erin would be out running errands for things I would put together the crib and other things that we had bought in anticipation. It was one of the most exciting times of my life.
Until one of the scariest days of my life happened. Early on a Sunday morning Erin came into the bedroom letting me know something was seriously wrong. We quickly got dressed and grabbed what we could and hopped into my car. Just as we got to the hospital Erin water broke.
In all honesty my life now became a focus of trying to keep hope going. I knew Erin would be beyond devastated if we lost this little baby. I couldn’t let her lose hope and I couldn’t let her stop fighting for hope. However, inside I began to ask myself what I would do to keep Erin going when they eventually will likely have to pull the lifeless body of my child from Erin.
It’s not that I gave up all hope. But at the same time I had to prepare myself for what the reality likely was. Only a miracle now could save my child, and the doctors made it painfully aware the minuscule chance of our baby’s survival.
Over the next three weeks, so many ups and downs happened that I can’t even begin to concisely paint a picture experience. We had so much support but also so much was unknown. We lived life literally moment-by-moment praying desperately for every day that was given.
Three weeks and 2 days after Erin’s water broke we found ourselves back in the hospital. She had gone back in 10 days before with premature labor and between medicines, complete bed-rest and sheer willpower Erin had been able to keep our little baby inside. We didn’t even know if this baby was a boy or a girl. However, we knew quickly that this was the last day Erin could fight to keep the baby inside. Our baby was going to have to learn to fight on it’s own with the help of amazing doctors and nurses.
In a small hospital room stuffed with probably a dozen medical personnel, I begged for a moment to stop all preparations so I could lead us in a prayer. Everyone respectfully stopped and we all had a moment of prayer. It was a moment of helpless brokenness I will never forget. In that moment I had to learn to say “it is well with my soul”.
Erin transitioned from 10 days of holding back contractions to allowing herself to push and within two minutes I heard it. I heard the sound of hope. It was the faintest sound I had probably ever heard. Erin wasn’t even able to hear it. It sounded similar to the sound of a newly born kitten that hasn’t even fully figure out how to mew. In fact, it was the sound of a partial cry. Like as if you had been trying to make a sound but it was only at the last moment of your breath you were able to get something out. These two little whimpers of my boy were probably one of the most fragile sounds I’ve ever heard but to me they were the roars of a lion. They were my sound of hope.
They were the sounds that my 1 pound baby boy was going to fight to exist. Doctors will tell you that they can never determine which kids will make it and which won’t. It all depends on which ones choose to fight for it. To me, those sounds told me Jonathan was fighting…and I couldn’t help but feel he was fighting for Erin and I. It’s amazing how fragile of a thing hope can seem to be.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 gives us some good things to think about when it comes to hope.
13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died[h] will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.
This passage reminds us of some very big reasons for hope.
1) We have the hope of purpose.
As believers, our lives are for more than just ourselves. In fact Scripture talks about that we’ve been given special gifts that are meant for the building up of each other. That means your life’s purpose is mutually for the building up of others while we all work together to further God’s Kingdom. Having a purpose lets us know that even though things may not go according to our plan for life…it most certainly is not ruining God’s plan for my life if I strive to serve Him and others everyday. That takes a lot of pressure off and it also gives us a significant amount of hope that our efforts will somehow play a role in the movement of God’s big plan.
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)
2) We have a hope for the future.
In the times of Christopher Columbus everyone believed that there was a point out in the ocean that the earth ceased to exist. The common phrase of the day was Ne Plus Ultra – No More Beyond. In fact all maps of the day held this phrase letting people know there was nothing beyond this map. It was even said that there was once huge pillars at the Straights of Gibraltar with this warning to all sailors that there is nothing more to explore beyond this point. Everyone was certain of it’s truth.
Standing today in the city of Valladolid, Spain stands a statue for Christopher Columbus with these same three words with the “Ne” scratched out signifying that there is more beyond.
Verse 14 lets us know that just as Jesus has defeated death He will also give us life. This means that there is much more beyond the grave. It stands as a pillar of testament that no matter what others may believe, the truth is that there is much more beyond the grave.
3) We have the hope of community
We will not be alone. This passage gives us hope that there are faithful brothers and sisters who have, are and will continue to stand faithfully together to the call of Christ. True community happens with commonality of purpose. With the singular purpose of Christ we find that our basic need to be known is found.
4) We have the hope of a Savior
There is no way we can have any semblance of hope left to ourselves. Life can seem very hard and uncertain. Without someone who holds power over the uncertain there would be nothing but insecurity. However, Jesus has already defeated death and sin which gives Him ultimate power over both and a very solid hope that we likewise will find our resurrection as well in Him.
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins. (Isaiah 53:5, 11)
A great quote by Corrie Ten Boom is, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Another way of saying this is we not know what the future hold…but we know who holds the future. That gives us hope.
This Christmas season we will hear the word hope quite often. It is the hope of people to be seen or presents to be received. It is the hope that the coming year will bring even more good things than was experienced this year.
Five and a half years ago a tiny little newborn boy gave me the sound of hope in a world that had quickly become very chaotic. However, the little sound of his cry was what I needed to know he was going to fight to be with me.
Even more important is that over 2,000 years ago another baby boy gave a very similar sound of hope. The lion of Judah roared and it sounded very much like a little baby’s cry. It was the sound that He was going to fight to do everything He could to be with me and keep me. God’s Savior was here – He is Christ the Lord.
Have hope this Christmas not in the special moments of the season, or in the time with family or in the dreams of the coming year. Have hope because you truly take time to listen to the cry in the manger.
- Cody Shepherd -