"...remember that...you were separate from Christ, excluded...foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world." Ephesians 2:12Tuesday I took a prayer day at a lake by my house. As I was there I heard from God in some very compelling ways. I'd stand on the dock, looking out over the lake, listening and praying. Then I'd sit at the picnic table and reflect more in my prayer journal. Then I'd stand up and walk back and forth on the dock again, praying, followed by more interaction in my prayer journal.
What a wonderful time with the Lord.
But then, a couple thousand feet away, I noticed a thick plume of dark black smoke with an intense fire at the base of it. I watched a helicopter come and start circling it. I closed up my books and headed down there to find a pickup truck being doused by firemen. A bystander said there was a man inside, and that it looked like a suicide. He had seen the man driving back and forth down the lane, near the dock where I was, and that he looked distraught. Not long after that he parked his truck and it went up in flames. He was 66.
What a horrible way to die. How much does one have to be without hope to end their life by fire?
My heart hurts for the man, and I'm struck by the contradiction of experiences: while I was enjoying a wonderful prayer time with God, he drove within fifty yards of me, not able to live with himself anymore. I was talking to God about things to come. He was unable to find any hope for a livable future.
As I think about it, I realize that it's not an isolated reality. Those of us who love the Lord and find great delight in him are constantly rubbing shoulders with people who are without hope in the world. They can't live with themselves anymore so some take their own lives. Others just give up their lives to senseless or destructive behavior.
I believe God is always working to move people toward himself. I don't know all the reasons why some people don't receive his grace, but I do know that his grace awaits each person, no matter how distraught they are, or how final their actions are. And I also know that his grace has been entrusted to those of us who have received it, and we need to be attentive in sharing it.
This morning I prayed, "Lord, next time, speak my name loudly, get my attention, spark my intuition, cause me to notice, stir my soul so much that I look up from whatever I'm doing, and move me to crowd in and rescue the hopeless with love and care." May he answer that prayer for all of us who have found hope in him.
One last thought: If you are without hope, please ask for help. There are people around you who have an eternal hope; they really do have hope to spare, and have been gifted by Jesus Christ to carry you when you can't carry yourself. Hear this encouragement from Ephesians 5:14. It's meant for all of us, and in this moment, I believe it's especially for you:
"Wake up, sleeper,It really is possible. If you need help finding that hope, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."