Fabeled Ohio St. football coach Woody Hayes was an advocate of running the ball. His teams were characterized as “three yards and a cloud of dust.” When asked about passing the football, Hayes is reputed to have said, “When you throw the ball three things can happen, and two of them are bad.” As successful as his teams were, Woody Hayes had a decidedly pessimistic view of an important part of the game of football.
The men who envisioned and created our nation were men of great insight, and given the circumstances in which they lived must have been generally optimistic in their outlook. Even so, one of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, is credited with expounding one of the most pessimistic observations about life. He said that there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. It’s hard to imagine the great things he accomplished having this point of view.
These examples illustrate perhaps the greatest challenge of life. That is, remaining content and upbeat in the face of all the calamities that befall us. As soon as we are born, we begin to die. Along the way, we experience sickness and disease, disappointment and discouragement, and any number of other hardships that are typical of human life. It is easy to see why some think that life is basically bad — and then you die. This kind of pessimism is born from a general sense that one can do little or nothing to affective outcome of his life.
Christians, however, have a hope that more than overcomes the setbacks of life. Paul spoke of this hope in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica. Many of them were concerned about their loved ones in Christ who had died before the Lord’s return. To comfort them, Paul said, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope” (1 Th. 4:13). He then went on to describe how the dead in Christ will rise first when the Lord returns, and that they will be joined in the air with the Lord by those who remain alive at the Lord’s return (vs. 14-17). He closed his exhortation with this statement: “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (v. 18).
Those who are Christians have a comfort that non-Christians do not have. They have the comfort that there is more after life and death, and that what awaits them on the other side is much better than anything in life. It is so much better, in fact, that Paul told the Christians in Rome that all the suffering of life cannot be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18).
Christians have the hope of eternal life in the presence of God the Father. Scripture promises us that when we get there, God Himself will wipe away every tear, and there will no longer be any of the painful things that characterized earthly life (Rev. 7:17; 21:3-4). Christians have this hope because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and their sins have been forgiven. They have this hope because their names have been written in the book of life and the Lord has prepared a place for them in heaven.
We often sing a song entitled, “It Is Well With My Soul.” This beautiful hymn captures our hope and our comfort in life. When bad things happen, including the death of a loved one, we can still sing, “It is well with my soul,” because we know our souls are safe in the hands of Jesus. We who are Christians can endure whatever life throws at us and still say, “It is well,” because we have the hope that only the blood of our Lord provides. May everyone learn and obey the Lord’s will so that they, too, may have this hope and comfort.