A story is only as good as its ending. Without a happy ending that draws us on in eager anticipation, our journey becomes a nightmare of endless struggle. Is this all there is? Is this as good as it gets? On a recent flight I was chatting with one of the attendants about her spiritual beliefs. A follower of a New Age guru, she said with all earnestness, “I don’t believe in heaven. I believe life is a never-ending cycle of birth and death.” What a horror, I thought to myself. This Story had better have a happy ending. Paul felt the same. If this is as good as it gets, he said, you may as well stop at a bar on the way home and tie one on; go to Nordstrom’s and max out all your credit cards; bake a cake and eat the whole thing. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32).
Our hearts cannot live without hope. Gabriel Marcel says that “hope is for the soul what breathing is for the living organism.” In the trinity of Christian graces—faith, hope, and love—love may be the greatest, but hope plays the deciding role. The apostle Paul tells us that faith and love depend on hope, our anticipation of what lies ahead: “Faith and love...spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:5). Our courage for the journey so often falters because we’ve lost our hope of heaven—the consummation of our Love Story. The reason most men, to quote Thoreau, “live lives of quiet desperation” is that they live without hope.