January 3 I Thursday
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” —1 Corinthians 15:19
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian Jew who was imprisoned along with his new bride and his parents in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Before his imprisonment, he specialized in treating depressed and suicidal patients. Both his parents and his wife died, but Frankl survived and was instrumental in giving other inmates a lot of hope and reason to live.
Frankl’s experiences in Auschwitz led him to observe the value of hope. Despite horrific conditions, there were those who talked about the future with anticipation, and when the war was over, looked forward to what they would do, the food they would buy and the meals they would cook. These were mostly the ones who survived, not only the gas chambers, but various ailments many others succumbed to.
After the war, Frankl developed a branch of psychiatry called “logotherapy”. His practice maintained that for people to survive hardship, their lives needed to be oriented to the future. He believed the key to a person’s life lay in what they hoped for, and it was a sense of future that gave them the courage to deal with difficult issues from their pasts. He would ask his patients point blank why they did not commit suicide. Though not a reassuring question from a doctor, the answers they gave revealed the key to their futures. What they hoped for was greater in value than death and gave them hope for a meaningful future.
Without hope, we have no sense of joy, fulfillment, purpose or life. In the opening verse, Paul refers to the hope we have in Christ, not only for this life, but a far better, greater and richer hope yet to come. God does not, however, give us dominion over death, so we are not to take dying into our own hands. In this life, we live in the strength of Christ with the wonderful assurance of a heavenly home with Him.
“A lot of hope” comes naturally to the Christian and becomes like faith. We may be unaware of our exercise of it because our hope is in God, who transcends family, wealth, careers or anything we may otherwise place our hope in. Many of the verses in Scripture addressing hope speak of “the hope,” which is speaking of the ultimate end of this life. It speaks of heaven, which is why Paul, who endured many hardships and suffering, says if hope in Christ were only about this life, we are of all people most to be pitied. This life is not the sum totality of our existence, but God has given us the remarkable assurance of an everlasting home with Him.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the hope we have in You, not only for this life, but the wonderful assurance of an eternal home and an everlasting life with You.