Hope In Uncertain Times

For many people, hope is a fading memory of better days gone by. If the times in which we had been living weren’t already hard enough, along came COVID-19. It turned everyone’s world upside down, including mine as a hospice chaplain. I won’t insult your intelligence by saying that I have some easy answers for all that we may be going through. But, with all my heart, I know that it is possible to have a spiritual hope far greater than these uncertain times in which we live. After all, there is one word you’ll never hear in God’s vocabulary: “Oops!!”

As an art major, I learned that no matter how beautiful a photograph or a painting is, by getting the right matting and the right frame around that picture, its beauty will be greatly enhanced. Have you ever stopped to consider the fact that God has put a frame around each of our lives, and that frame is death! At first we hate the frame, but once we accept the frame we discover that the picture inside becomes far more beautiful, for it helps us see, and appreciate, what a precious gift and miracle life truly is.

I don’t want to diminish the very real threat COVID-19 has placed upon our world, but neither do I want to turn it into something it isn’t. The latest statistics are that 100% of us will still die. All COVID-19 can do is speed up the clock a bit. It forces us to confront our own mortality. All of our lives come with an expiration date.

So how do we begin to put life into perspective and find hope in uncertain times? Let me share an illustration that may help.

I once gave a talk at a men’s prison to around 75 inmates. If there is any place on earth that can seem hopeless it is for many of these inmates, many of whom will be locked away for years or even a lifetime. Following my talk I opened it up for anyone in the audience to respond with a question or comment. A middle-aged man stood up and said, “Bart, you probably don’t remember me, but about 35 years ago you were my chaplain at Charter Psychiatric Hospital. Most of the time I didn’t pay attention in your groups, but you shared one illustration that hit me right between the eyes, and I remember it to this day. Would you tell the guys the story about the piece of chalk?”

I immediately remembered that illustration. I said, “I want all of you to pretend that I have a piece of chalk the size of a telephone pole, and before us we have hundreds and hundreds of miles of chalkboard. We then take that big piece of chalk and we begin making a little thin line that goes and goes and goes until the chalk runs out. Pretend that this line is like a timeline representing eternity, except of course, in eternity the chalk will never run out. Now, at one end of the line, visualize putting a tiny little dot. That little dot represents your whole life here on earth compared to eternity. 

First of all, does it make any difference whether there is a God or not? Of course it does. If there’s no God you might as well erase the line because when you die, the party’s over. On the other hand, if there is a God, then when you die you don’t go from this little speck of time to another little speck of time. No, you go from this speck and you step into eternity forever and ever. The biggest step you’ll ever take is the step from this life into eternity. That is the one step you don’t want to mess up.”

The bottom line is this: if you are at peace with God then you are standing on the threshold of eternal hope. As you explore this website I hope you will find your spirit refreshed and encouraged. May you come to understand the truth that God is real, and that God loves you with a love you can’t possibly imagine. No matter what the world dishes out, with God there is always help and there is always hope, even in uncertain times.

~ Bart Larson, Artist & Author