I was just about to hit the “Send” button on a text to my friend wishing her a Happy New Year when I saw the emoji suggestion appear above the digital keyboard. I can’t remember a time when an emoji elicited a visceral reaction in me, but in an instant, my heart sank. The word highlighted in my text message was “hope.” And the emoji that popped up as a suggestion to replace it? Two fingers crossed. Even as I write this my heart breaks just a little. Is this the symbol of hope today?
I know, I know… it’s just an emoji. It’s a playful suggestion that a computer program assigned to a word in the English language. It’s a shortcut. An expression. People say it all the time to wish someone well. “Fingers crossed!” For crying out loud, lady, lighten up!
While all that is true, the strength of my reaction caused me to dig deeper. I initially assumed that my feelings stemmed from pity. How sad, I thought. If the world sees hope as a child-like wish, a superstitious gesture that may bring them good luck or favor, how weak a thing to rely upon. Poor souls. But that initial deduction as to the reason for my visceral reaction proved to be as shallow as the emoji itself. It wasn’t pity that God was stirring in me. It was conviction.
Jesus is my hope. Jesus is the hope for this world. He is the ONLY hope for this world. And He lives in me. The moment I step back and distance myself from the “poor souls” who put their hope in superstition I dim the Light of Christ who lives within me. I abandon them to the darkness, to the weak and ineffectual god in whom they place their trust. The emoji suggestion is not just a reflection of the culture that we live in and the direction that culture is moving. It is a reminder to us believers, a serious conviction, that we have a calling on our lives to be light and salt in this dark and tasteless world. It is a conviction that while we are not responsible for the choices the world makes, we are responsible for being witnesses to and purveyors of the Hope that we possess.
I’ve been reading the book of Job. We read in the opening chapters that God thought very highly of Job. He was a righteous, blameless man who feared God and shunned evil. God thought so highly of him in fact that he allowed Satan to test Job by putting him through a horrendous set of circumstances. In one day, Job lost all of his livestock, sheep, and camels, and the lives of all ten of his children. As if that wasn’t enough, God gave Satan permission to take Job’s good health as well. Job’s circumstances couldn’t get any worse… until his friends show up. Job’s three friends started off sympathetic. They came alongside him in his suffering not speaking but just being with him. But after about a week their sympathy dried up and they began accusing Job of bringing his circumstances upon himself. They begged him to repent of whatever he had done to anger God so much that He brought this level of destruction into his life. We know, as readers, that Job’s friends are wrong. Those opening chapters tell us Job hasn’t done anything for which God is punishing him. And throughout the book Job clings to his innocence. Even though his three best friends all point an accusing finger at him, he stands firm and wants only to appeal his case directly to God. In the end, God does show up. While he never directly answers Job’s question as to why he was suffering, He does remind them all of His majesty and sovereignty. In the end, Job’s health, riches, and family are restored and he is the one who prays for God to have mercy on his friends who have spoken wrongly about who God is.
There is a common expression about this book of the Bible. When people want to pay someone a compliment for having great patience they’ll say, “They have the patience of Job.” But I disagree with this observation of Job. Patience isn’t the quality that I see in Job. He grows increasingly impatient (understandably so) with the false accusations of his friends and he is desperate for an audience with God. He is forced to wait for God to show up in his circumstance but I don’t see that forced waiting to be ripe with patience. But what does come through in Job over and over again throughout this book is his hope.
Job is a man of great hope and his hope is in God. Job knows God. He knows His character. He has a relationship with God. Job says in 29:4, “Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house.” (NIV) He had an intimate, personal friendship with the God who created him. And, although Job grows weary, loses his patience with his friends and even with God, he does not turn his back on God. He knows that God is his ONLY hope!
He says, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.” Job 13:15 (NIV)
Job also recognizes that his ability as a mere mortal to face off with God in court seemed impossible. He says in Chapter 9, “He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.” Job 9:32-35 (NIV) Job knows he needs a mediator. Someone who could take up his case and stand between him and God. We as believers in the 21st Century know that this Mediator is Jesus! He was the only One who was not just a mere mortal, but also God that He could mediate for us.
Another example of Job’s hope comes in Chapter 19. It’s one of the most famous lines from this book. Job says, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27 (NIV) Job’s words point us not only to a Redeemer, a Savior, but also to the hope of a physical resurrection, where we will one day see God with our own eyes.
What is remarkable to me about all these glimmers of hope in Job’s conversations with his friends is the time in which this book was written. Unless you are reading a chronological Bible you will find the book of Job about halfway through the Old Testament (just before Psalms). But the book of Job is one of the earliest books of the Bible ever written. Scholars aren’t exactly sure when Job lived or who wrote his story but it is believed he lived around the time of Jacob. Some believe that he is a descendant of Jacob’s brother Esau. Think about that. Job had a personal, intimate relationship with the same God that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did, before the nation of Israel existed and long before there were rabbis and priests to explain who this God was! And yet, Job knew Him. He not only knew Him but he placed his whole hope in Him.
Job did not have the Old or New Testament to consult. He did not have the work and miracles of Jesus to look to. He did not have the law of Moses or a priest to bring a sacrifice to. But Job had hope. Think of what we have as believers today. We have the Bible at our fingertips any time we want it. We have the Good News that we indeed have a Mediator who has taken on Himself the punishment for our sins so that our relationship with God can forever be restored. We have the hope of a future with God our Creator, eternal life with Him because He sent His very own Son to die for us. We have the Spirit of God living inside of us. That incredible gift has been given to us so that we might be the vessels through whom His light shines to the rest of the world that is cloaked in darkness. That is a precious gift that we’ve been given to share with the rest of the world. We have HOPE.
So when you see that fingers crossed emoji or hear someone use that expression, my hope is that your hearts will be as convicted as mine. Contained within each of us is the greatest Hope who ever lived, the One who was sent by God as an act of love to save this world from itself. May we never lose sight of the power and value of our Hope. May we never express the pitiful sigh, “poor souls,” when faced with the opportunity to share our Hope with others. May we instead have the Hope of Job and utilize the many resources God has gifted us.
Lord, forgive me for those times I have taken for granted the Hope you have given me in the Person of your Son Jesus. Forgive me for the times I have not recognized your love and value of those who are placing their hope in something far less than you. Thank you for your conviction. May I be your beacon of light pointing all those whom you place in front of me to the Hope that is Jesus. Thank you for the example of Job. May we have his Hope no matter our circumstances. In Jesus’ name, amen.