Hope With Substance
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." (1 Peter 3:15)
Reading this verse years ago as a young, shy person, it inspired me to mentally rehearse sharing God with someone asking questions about my faith. To someone terrified of public speaking, and also awkward in lesser social interactions, it made sense that planning to be "ready always to give an answer" for the hope of Christ within me was worthy of practice.
Although this logic isn't necessarily wrong, I grew to understand maybe the verse alludes to a deeper readiness, and the word "always" in the verse stood out. True preparedness measurements are thrown upon us unexpectedly. The questioning of our hope might not arise from a place of comfort, but instead when pain becomes the platform. Lyrics from a song "Even If" sung by Mercy Me speaks of this:
"It's easy to sing when there's nothing to bring me down.
But what will I say, when I'm held to the flame, like I am right now?
I know You're able and I know You can, save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if you don't, my Hope is in You Alone"
When tragedy strikes, when life takes an unexpected nosedive, when the proverbial rug is yanked out from under you, suddenly you're under a spotlight you didn't seek. The situation's initial sucker punch knocks us over and steals our breath, and we cry for a moment but eventually rise with God's help. That's where the readiness to speak to our hope occurs.
Last December, Pittsburgh Steeler fans watched in horror as the team's young linebacker, Ryan Shazier, suffered a devastating spinal injury leaving him unable to use his legs. Ryan was raised in a home of faith, and his father is a minister.
About a month after his injury — when Ryan was not yet walking as he is today, and things were still very uncertain — a local news station aired an interview with Ryan's father on his son's prognosis. Raw emotion surfaced as he shared about initially hearing the bad news. He credited the power of community prayer and support to making a level 10 crisis in their family feel like a level 5. Next, the interviewer stepped beyond an injury update and asked point blank about "faith and this idea that faith will always carry you." She asked him to describe it to someone who may have never experienced it before. Here's what Mr. Shazier said:
"It (faith) gives you hope. Hope with some substance. When it comes to my faith, it is not one that disappoints me." He admitted some things he hoped in — like the Steelers always winning — disappointed him, but "the hope that I have when it comes to my faith is not one that disappoints me because my hope is grounded and rooted in God. I trust God. I believe God, so it is a hope that has some substance and can be trusted."
He was asked if he ever questioned why the injury happened. Admitting he felt tempted to do so, he said that it'd be a waste of energy and brain power, choosing instead to "focus on standing, leaning, trusting in my faith in God." Conceding that his family may or may not down the road understand why "this trouble found us," he explained, "When times get tough and you experience tests in life, that's when you have to really stand firm and anchor yourself in your faith. What's the purpose of an anchor? To keep you from drifting."
It seemed Mr. Shazier was meekly ready to sum up his soul's hope while still in the middle of his storm.
And we can be too. Our interview may not be on TV, but huddled in a corner of a hospital or over coffee, talking with a neighbor, co-worker, or friend who supportively wants an update to our status but ends up asking us how we're managing to stay so strong.
In the business world, marketing often consists of glossy testimonials from beautiful celebrities or models. Practical thinkers see above that approach. Now think about infomercials or in-store product demonstrations instead. They can be cheesy, but isn't it fascinating watching a gadget in action, solving some common problem you've experienced too? You can't deny what you've witnessed work in action, and you become convinced you need this item too. Hope and faith in our God isn't a tool solving just one specific life problem. It covers them all. There is nothing His touch cannot restore.
People are witnessing our faith in action as well, which is often more effective on cloudy days than sunny ones. When a storm cloud is not over your head, be the one who is making someone's level 10 crisis feel like a 5. And if you're in the storm yourself, remember that hope shines in darkness. When nothing makes sense, and even in our own pain, somebody may witness a strength that is not our own and want that anchor for their own soul, to keep from drifting.
Be ready always.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.