Living Hope or Certain Death
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
1 Peter 1:3
Here is what our culture teaches about retirement: it is one homogeneous stage of life marked by physical and mental decline ending in death.
We insert leisure as the filler between the gold watch and death characterizing it as having meaning and purpose. We purpose to be fulfilled by travel, recreation, exercise, crafts, and all other manners of activity that seem to reward our life of leisure. When we are not fulfilling our leisure goals, we feel deprived and act out our frustration by being negative, grumpy, and often cynical. We chose to direct our lives towards certain death.
A US Airforce pilot is purported to say, "Hope is not a strategy." When your plane is in trouble you need to call on past training, instant intuition, and a specific plan. When your plane is in trouble, there is one type of relevant hope - trust and perseverance. "I hope I can get this plane under control and see it safely to the runway!" All said with gritted teeth and straining arms and then the belief that you can do it. Then there is the Air Force Academy first-year cadet. He or she desires to fly and has every expectation that it will happen. They hope they will fly, all the time believing they will.
There are different kinds of hope.
When we focus on our future retirement, hope begins to take on some additional meaning, "I hope I can retire early!" or, "I hope I get to travel when I retire." A few other common thoughts are, "I hope I can live a long time," "I hope we will still be happy together when I retire," or "I hope we can finish our bucket list." In each of those thoughts, there is a part of hoping that translates into wishful thinking. Behind the wish is the wondering whether there will be enough time and maybe enough money to make the wish come true. Another way of connecting the dots is the wonder of whether you will be able to fulfill your leisure dreams before you die. It Is the end of life that drives the conversation, not the beginning of something new.
When Peter says that we can have new birth into a living hope, he is speaking to Christians of all ages. When we focus his words on our last 30 years of life, what is the impact?
First, changing our focus from certain death to living hope changes our attitude.
What we think about is what we will become—dying person or a living one. If our thoughts are on being a living person, then we look for meaning and purpose. On the other hand, if our thoughts are on being a dying person, our focus is only on how near we are to the edge of the cliff. A living person looks for and listens to God's call on the next stage of life. A dying person only wonders if there will be a next stage.
Next, changing our focus from certain death to living hope changes our actions.
A living person asks "when" and "where" while a dying person can only ask "why" or "how soon." When we have meaning and a purpose our actions will then reflect the meaning and the purpose. We believe that each of us is a unique creation of God and are part of His redemptive plan for the world. Living with hope affirms your role in the plan and affirms that you can carry it out. Living with an expectation of service and making a difference is certainly the pathway to joy and the antidote to depression. Living with hope brings confidence and puts that proverbial "spring in your step" regardless of age or physical condition.
Finally, changing our focus from certain death to living hope brings us closer to God.
It's easier to connect with The Eternal when we are not focused on ourselves. Living with hope directs our focus outward instead of inward. Also living hope is directed towards others and moving forward, while certain death slows us down, creating fear and anxiety.
I'd be remiss not to point out that as Christians we should think of death differently. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 sums it up:
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
And then one of my favorite verses, John 14:1-2:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me (Jesus). My Father's house has many rooms; if the were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
So, whether in life or in death, our focus is on Jesus, our call is from God, and our actions reflect the love that He has for all of us.
Here is the bottom line: Love God and serve others.