“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, ‘Do you wish to get well?’” John 5:6
James Cameron is an accomplished inventor, engineer, philanthropist, and deep-sea explorer. He’s also directed a couple of movies you may have seen – do The Terminator, Titanic, or Avatar ring any bells? Cameron is famous for many things, but one of his traits I find most inspiring from a secular business perspective is his drive and focus. He once famously said “Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a factor. Fear is not an option.”
As a business guy, I embrace this statement completely. As a Christian, I take issue with its initial sentence. “Hope,” as it turns out, is a key pillar of faith.
Reflecting on the vanity of life and how short his days were in the face of his personal weaknesses, David writes in Psalm 39: “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” Confronting his own frailty, David turns to the only source of strength he knows will not fail him – hope in God.
Hope, as it turns out, is a common trait in our faith. Paul refers to “hope” at least five times in his letter to the Romans. Hope is all over the book of Psalms. Hope punctuates Jesus’ ministry at every turn. Hope saved Job from despair.
Hope helps us change the way we view the world, offering us light in the midst of darkness. Lack of hope has the exact opposite effect.
A friend I’ve recently met is struggling in his marriage. When we talk about where the difficulties lie, the common theme is that he has given up hope of any resolution, resigned to endless struggle. His life is filled with depression and despair.
Another acquaintance of mine was just told his wife’s breast cancer thought to be in remission has re-emerged, metastasized in her liver and spine. His reaction? Absolute hope and faith in God’s power to heal her once again.
Two scenarios, two different responses. The common thread? Given choices in life, we can respond with fear and gloom, or with hope and faith. In either instance, how we respond can shape how God works in our lives.
Now, before anyone labels me a Christian Scientist or Jehovah’s Witness, let me assure you – I believe in science, in medicine, and in the skill of physicians. When a medication or procedure can relieve or cure an ailment, I whole-heartedly support it. That said, it’s established that a patient’s mental condition impacts their response to treatment.
Translation? Hope works.
What Do You Want?
We read a beautiful story in John 5 about the power of hope. After spending time in Galilee where he met the woman Samaritan by the well and healing a nobleman’s son, Jesus travels to Jerusalem, encountering a man who had laid beside the waters of the Bethesda Pools for 38 years, crippled.
This man came to the waters every day waiting for his chance to be cured, only to watch others take his place. At some point, he simply lost hope, telling himself this was his life, this was all it would ever be.
Can you relate to this? Has there been a time in your life when yousimply lost hope? Maybe a dream you had, a relationship you cherished, a job you needed … gone or beyond reach. When we lose our hope, we lose our belief in ourselves. We stop caring.
When Jesus encountered the man by the pool, he saw something different than the man saw in himself he saw a human being who had given up hope, given up on his dream of walking.
Rather than judge him, Jesus asked: “Do you wish to get well?” A simple, straight-forward question. Like many others Jesus asked throughout his earthly ministry such as “What are you looking for?” in John 1:38, or “Why are you looking for me?” in Luke 2:49, or “What do you want me to do for you?” in Mark 10:36.
Jesus is not so much interested in the man’s affliction as he is the man’s state of mind. Did this man truly want to cured or was he comfortable in his hopelessness? Jesus realizes if he cures the man’s mind, his body will follow. And that is precisely what happened.
Anyone Can Lose Hope
Believers – even the most devout – can lose hope. Perhaps we’re surrounded by others who themselves are hopeless, draining us with their own lack of belief. Maybe having hope in the face of adversity is simply too hard, too much work. Or sometimes, finding hope can simply be too painful, leaving us exposed to heartbreak and disappointment.
Paul reminds us in Romans 12:12 to “rejoice in hope, persevere in tribulation, stay devoted to prayer.” When we lose hope, when we stop caring and stop praying, we create our own self-fulfilling prophecies.
Hope may not be much of a strategy for James Cameron. But during this Advent Season, I see hope shining like a beacon through the darkness and fog of a hopeless world. Hope shows us how God doesn’t just offer the promise of an afterlife in eternity, but can and will meet our needs right here, right now, in this moment, forgiving us of our shortcomings and changing our lives forever.