Like today, society underwent much turmoil in 1973. Roe vs. Wade became law, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned due to tax evasion, First Nation supporters held a 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee, and the Battle of the Sexes Tennis match between Billie Jean King, and Bobby Riggs took place.
At that time, award winning E.B. White, essayists and author of Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and coauthor of The Elements of Style, received a letter asking him to comment on the future of the human race.
His response, seen on the Letters of Note website, said the following:
30 March 1973
Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
[Signed, ‘E. B. White’]
Unfortunately, hope in man’s ingenuity, inventiveness, and curiosity has not clawed us out of a gloomy future more than 20 years later.
While watching the news coverage of Hurricane Harvey, I heard people spew out the phrase, “All things work out for good.” It reminded me of the time a co-worker said that to me, and I retorted, “You know that is a Bible verse, right? It’s Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”‘ Immediately, she scowled and said, “Well I’ll never use that phrase again.”
Our society is quick to regurgitate platitudes, and whimsical sayings to those who need hope. We hang on to phrases as if a mystical wand will appear and make our lives better, or that something inside us will awaken our understanding and motivate us to a better future.
Unfortunately, hope in ourselves can lead to imaginary scenarios that will suppress our pain but lead us outside the world of reality. I heard of a woman in her late 30’s who raced home from work every night to make dinner for her husband and children. She set the table, poured the drinks, and served the meal. However, she ate alone, because her entire family lived only in her mind. False hope thrives in those who are in so much pain that they will make up a fantasy to cope with disappointment. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (NASB)
Optimism must have a bullseye to aim at to solidify its foundation. Therefore, hope is at its best when we have an object to rely on that is outside of ourselves. It needs something sure and steadfast – and that mark is God. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God is a constant, unchanging, and immovable.
Then hope translates to faith. We believe God is trustworthy and he will not allow our faith to come to shame. Moreover, God gives us his Word.
Hebrews 6:12-19 tell us, why we should hope in God. “For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his name, saying: “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.” Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised. Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” (NLT, emphasis mine)
Perhaps our lack of hope is our failure to understand the person who holds our future.