Without Hope, You Will Die

The best-selling book entitled Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (now also a movie) recounts the true story of Louie Zamperdini and the amazing feats of his life. Louie was a world-class sprinter, competing in the Olympics and setting numerous school records. When World War II began, he enlisted in the Army Air Force and became a bombardier in the Pacific arena. Flying on a B-29 bomber with several other crew members, it was his duty to locate bomb targets and release the bombs, particularly on Japanese islands. Remarkably, he survived an air-to-air fight in which his plane suffered severe damage; later, ground crews counted 594 bullet holes in the hull of the bomber.  Not long after, he survived an air raid in which the Japanese bombed and practically destroyed his island base.

Later, Louie and his battered crew were sent on a rescue mission in which their plane failed, and they crashed into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Only Louie and two others survived the crash (Phil, the pilot; and Mac, the engineer). For a month and a half they were stranded on a life raft, left alone to battle the sharks, blistering sun, scorching thirst, maddening hunger, and the terrifying prospect of death.  Interestingly, the author describes how they each perceived their plight.

Though all three men faced the same hardship, their differing perceptions of it appeared to be shaping their fates. Louis and Phil’s hope for survival displaced their fear and inspired them to work toward their survival, and each success renews their physical and emotional vigor. Mac’s resignation seemed to paralyze him, and the less he participated in their efforts to survive, the more he slipped. Though he did the least, as the days passed, it was he who faded most. Louie and Phil’s optimism, and Mac’s hopelessness, were becoming self-fulfilling (pg. 148).

Just over a month at sea Mac died of starvation, thirst, and despair. Louie and Phil refused to give up and were eventually captured and taken prisoner by the Japanese.

This story testifies to the power hope has over the human will and its resolve to persevere. Consider, for a moment, the importance of our hope as Christians. Without hope, what reason do we have to press on toward heaven? Without hope, we stop trying. We cease working to fix a broken marriage because we don’t think it will do any good. Out of discouragement of past failures, we give up teaching our neighbors about Jesus. Or perhaps we’re so overcome by the temptations and trials of this life that we lose heart and give up serving the Lord entirely.

Hopelessness is a subtle killer. The moment we give up looking confidently toward heaven, our will to endure dies. Rather than cause us to give up, tribulations should invigorate us to hope even further. Like Abraham, who believed “in hope against hope” that he would have a son according to God’s promise (Rom. 4:18-21), our tribulations produce perseverance, proven character, and a hope which does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts (Rom. 5:3-5). We have every reason to hope, given that God loved us while we were yet sinners; surely, if He loved us then, He loves us while we are His children (Rom. 5:6-10).

Yes, what we hope for is unseen, but that does not undermine its reality. “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we eagerly wait for it” (Rom. 8:24-25).

Our hope is not a vague, insecure belief that one day we will make it to heaven by the skin of our teeth. What kind of hope (or faith, Heb. 11:1) is that? How does it help us persevere? No, our confidence is that—with the help of our great High Priest—we will survive this life.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). Don’t give up—God will rescue us when it’s time.