The Source of Hope

The depth of hope is dependent on the depth of its origin.

A recent article in Scientific American estimated that in the US,  there are about 60 million
people who claim to not be affiliated with any religion - most being atheists or agnostics.
That is somewhere around 20% of the population.  There are a number of people who are
happy about this growing group of faithless people, but I can’t be counted as one of them.

Many have wondered why I focus a lot on this topic.  Like everything else, there are a
number of reasons. However, this one is particularly personal to me.  I guess it is time to
share why that is. I am a Christian.  I have personal relationship with Christ.  I’m not just
throwing that out there; it is the driving force in my life.  It is the only reason I am here. Let
me explain.

First, some background: I had a normal, happy childhood.  I dabbled with church, but we
weren't really a church family. I did feel that God had a hold on me, although I really didn't
understand it.

When I was 15, I made an official commitment to God.  It really didn't seem to change me
much. I was always a pretty compliant kid.  It didn't turn my life around or anything. As a
matter of fact, I just put it on the back-burner and lived my teenage life.

Later, I went to college where I met a lot of different kinds of people with various beliefs
or lack thereof.  When I was a freshmen in the dorm, I met my first atheist. Rich was a guy
that lived on my dorm floor. He kind of freaked me out; I mean, how can someone just NOT
believe in God? Despite that difference, Rich and I became good friends.  We even talked
about being roommates. We also talked about religion, but neither one of us had much
influence on the other one in that vein. It wasn't a stumbling block, though. We got along

Through my undergraduate years, I wasn't exposed to much God stuff.  I lived in a fraternity
house where there were often activities that pastors wouldn't approve of.  In addition, the
university was a mix of views and offered a variety of exposures for a young guy learning
about the world.  I kind of slipped away from my beliefs and slipped into an exploration of
philosophy and other pursuits. I never proclaimed any changes in my beliefs and I now
presume that God had a hold on me through all my brain clouds.

When I graduated, I moved back home and enjoyed a number of months of unemployment
on my mom’s dime.  During this free time, I read and studied about God - and I studied a lot.
There were things unsettled about God as far as I was concerned and that needed to be
remedied. While some of the surface stuff was troubling, the spiritual stuff really started to
amaze me.  Through this process, the “personal relationship with Christ” really became a
thing. God had been with me during my exploration stage in college but seemed to be mostly
a silent observer, although I am sure he gave me nudges along the way that I didn't recognize.
However, now He was there for a real exchange.

Fast-forward a number of years. God was my partner in helping to bring up my nephews who
lived with me for a stretch.  He also had a huge hand in getting me into the occupation I have
now. It is an interesting story in of itself, but it will have to wait for another time.  

Through the years, God has given me pieces of information about friends, relationships, and
mostly myself.  He has sustained me when life, itself wasn't sustainable. He helped me through
my mother’s brain tumor ordeal and her disability.  It was His strength that kept my heart straight
as I took on the role of her primary caregiver.

When my wife and I divorced, it was one of the toughest things I could imagine going through.
All sorts of weapons attacked my psyche. The feeling of betrayal and abandonment took center
I even turned on God because I thought he was just as guilty as anyone. I believed (and still
believe) He led me to that relationship including the decision to get married. It seemed like a
cruel joke to me. However, I still resolved to trust God with the big picture, but admittedly, I
haven’t been completely the same since.

It wasn't too many years after that when I lost my mother.  It was a shock and a blow that
buckled my knees. My mom was the focal point of my life at that point.  Even though my
vision of a life with my wife and kids had slipped away, my mom gave me a reason to exist.
In losing her, not only did I lose my mother, I lost my purpose and the last person who made
it clear that I actually mattered in this world. She was my mom, my best friend, and my
dependent all rolled into one.  When we buried her, I didn't know what the point was anymore
for me.

I decided that I really didn't need God after that because my miserable life was the result of
trusting Him with it - a life of total abandonment without purpose.  I set out to wipe out that
part from my life and truthfully, I was ready to wipe life out altogether. I had never a suicidal
person. The thought of it seemed so foreign to me my entire life . . . until then.  All of the
sudden, it seemed like a reasonable idea. No purpose, no God, I was done.

However, through this despair and hopelessness stood God with “I will never leave you nor
forsake you.”

That experience gave new significance to the “Footprints in the Sand” poem that had always

been hanging on my mom’s bedroom wall. It was true.  It was put to the test and it was true.

This brings me back to today. People need God. They turn away from Him for all kinds of
reasons. Some think they are too smart to believe.  Others believe that they have no choice
but to NOT believe or they need proof. I understand that. Sometimes all that is part of the
journey to faith - it was for me.  I get it.

However. the one that infuriates me the most is when Christians link God to hate and
oppression. They do it unwittingly, I think, but it is so harmful.  I don’t blame people when
they refuse to entertain the existence of God because of that, because they see how
antithetical it is profess a loving God and then spit venom at his creation in His name.   

I get angry when I see people shoveling hate and trying to champion God with the same
breath. It is because that kind of mixed message makes a fraud out of God and those with
faith.  That kind of rhetoric that is often tied to politics infuriates me because I know God is
not a fraud. He saved my life. He gives me purpose. He gives me HOPE. He gives me
assurance that He really does love me and has a plan for my life - even when I feel that no
one else does or even cares. Because of God, there is no grave with my name on it next to
my mom’s today.  He is the ONLY reason for that, too - of that I am sure.

When I look at my life, it crushes me when I see that more and more people have abandoned
faith.  I am sure that decision has also contributed to people abandoning life itself. It almost
did for me.  Suicide rates have increased 28% in the US since 1999. Hopelessness will do that.
Does correlation mean causation?  Not necessarily, but I know one guy that was saved
because through it all, he didn't

abandon his faith. I know that for a fact.