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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'He had it all'

Give each other the gift of hope

The man who dropped into the seat next to me was so out of breath that I didn't even try to talk to him until the plane was in the air. Then he made the first move. "God must have put you here," he said, looking at my clerical collar, "because my wife just called to tell me that my best friend took his own life last night."

During the rest of the flight we talked about his deep loss and astonishment at this unexpected ending to their friendship. "He had it all," he said. "Good job, wonderful family, lots of friends. We loved to go hunting together. In fact, we were planning our next trip. He had it all."

But, in fact, he didn't. He was no different in that respect from the rest of us. He had a lot more of the "good things in life" than some of us have, but he lacked something we often take for granted. The one good thing in life he lacked was hope.

Hope can often keep us going when many of the lesser good things are taken away.

My mother-in-law lost her husband in a car-train collision when her children were all under 10. Those were difficult enough days in post-war Germany. All savings and pension funds evaporated because of monetary reform. She was left with three children and a family foundry to manage.

My wife remembers that her mother faced every new crisis with the words from 1 Corinthians 10:13: "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it."

In this Easter season we easily celebrate the resurrection hope. "Christ is risen" comes joyfully to our lips. We know God loves us and intends good for us beyond all tragedies and losses in our lives.

It's natural to assume that our friends, who smile and chat about the same little things we do, share that same hope. But we never fully know if that is the case. That's why we are told to "encourage one another" (1 Thessalonians 5:11), to give each other one of the good things in life that money can't buy--the gift of hope in God.


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