There’s nothing more torturous, yet more necessary, than hope.
There is nothing more satisfying than a realized hope, and there’s nothing more sickening than having your hopes dashed. Truly, the words Proverbs 13:12 resonate with our experience: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
We can’t help but hope. We hope for better days, for fulfilled dreams, for restored relationships, for financial security, for personal happiness. We tell ourselves the risk is worth the reward, we plug our ears when the pessimists call our hopes “wishful thinking” and we guard vigilantly against any threat to our hopes.
On January 26, 2020, our world was shocked to hear of the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. He was just 41 years old. Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was also killed in the crash. Our hearts sink just thinking about the family members still alive that are affected by this. I was personally moved, because I can understand a little of the pain they are going through. I lost my brother, sister-in-law, and their unborn baby girl to a bus crash that happened right in front of me. It was a tragedy that seemed to sap the vitality of life right out of me. All of this tragedy has left many people asking the same age-old question that man has been asking:
It seemed like such an odd detail. In a list praising Abraham for being willing to sacrifice his son, Moses for giving up a life of luxurious living, and Noah for building a boat and saving all of humanity, the statement about Jacob really stood out to me. “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21). I was preaching through Hebrews 11 when I first paid attention to that verse and was confused by the statement. What in the world did leaning on a staff have to do with faith?
The day is coming closer. The day you dread every year. The day you wish would never come. If you could just snap your fingers and skip this day completely, you would. The day that will find you constantly thinking about the loved one you lost. Grief is already hard to bear, but facing the anniversary of the death of a loved one can sometimes feel like you are reliving the whole thing again.
Six years ago this Saturday (July 27), my world came crashing down. My brother and best friend, Chad Phelps, was tragically killed in a bus accident that also claimed his wife, Courtney, their unborn baby girl, and one of the youth sponsors also on that bus. Each time this day rolls around on the calendar, I’m reminded of the shock of that day six years ago.
One of the chairs will be empty around the table for many this Christmas season. A wife will celebrate the holidays without her husband for the first time. A son will read Luke 2 without mom sitting there alongside him. There will be those not-so-distant memories of a friend’s voice we still cherish, whose quietness now speaks louder than his conversations used to. Those who were near to our hearts will be conspicuously absent. And when the cold, empty seat takes the place of that person we love, we feel the weight of their absence profoundly.
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