We live in a world full of hope! It's a good thing we do, because we also live in a world full of problems. To state the obvious, without hope, life would be hopeless. But wouldn’t it be nice if the correlation between the size of problems and the size of hope were linear? In other words, the biggest problems would be seen as opportunities for the biggest hope. Unfortunately, life doesn’t usually work that way. When people are faced with huge problems, they rarely see much hope at all. The other end of the spectrum holds true as well. We tend to be the most hopeful when our problems are small. Will the Eagles make the play-offs? 8 out of 10 fans think so, even though there is little to base that hope on. Will that boy ask you out, even though he’s never looked at you and doesn't know your name? Your friends think he will. Small problems yield big hope.
Every day, nearly 20,000 children die from preventable hunger and poverty related causes. You see those “pennies a day” commercials for relief organizations and think, “How big a difference could my pennies-a-day really make?” So you change the channel. Or maybe you haven’t been able to pay the mortgage in a few months. You see very little chance of keeping your house. Big problems, little hope.
We tend to be the most hopeful when the outcome is of very little consequence, or when we have great control over it. But when the stakes are high, and the outcome feels beyond our control, our hope fades. We begin looking to other things to put our hope in, or we work really hard to control the situation. We go through life controlling one situation after another, pinning our hope on ourselves and our ability to make things work. Then, when situations are so obviously beyond our control, they seem utterly hopeless.
This is the “gospel of me.” I can fix it, I can control it, I can make things work. Unfortunately, it always breaks down. Owen Ashworth sings a similarly themed song, and comes to the conclusion that, “Oh, you need a new gospel, cause the bottom fell out of the old one long ago…”
The pastorate that my family belongs to is participating in the 30-Hour Famine, which is a campaign to raise awareness and funds to combat global hunger, a problem that World Vision swears is fixable. I know that no matter how hard I try, I can’t fix global hunger. It’s a problem that seems primed for hopelessness. Why bother participation in what seems like such a trivial exercise.
All too often, we build our hope in something less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. The broken “gospel of me” can’t solve the big problems, and often screws up when trying to solve the little ones. The good news is that the true Gospel is news of hope. I can rest in the fact that God has a handle on things, and his plan is the best plan. While I can’t stand still and do nothing, I can move forward in the knowledge that my hope is built not on my ability to make things right, but on God’s unending love for me and mankind.
So is there hope for world hunger? When World Vision began the 30-Hour Famine campaign in 1992, 40,000 children a day were dying from hunger and poverty related causes. Today, that number has been cut in half, and I didn’t have to do it myself. Big problem, real hope.