People who experience high levels of despair have a 20% greater occurrence of atherosclerosis than people who live with hope. That’s the “same magnitude of increased risk that one sees in comparing a pack-a-day smoker to a non-smoker” (Journal of the American Heart Association).
In other words, with hope we can be 20% less likely to suffer from narrowing of the arteries caused by plaque buildup on interior blood vessel walls (atherosclerosis). But hope in what? Proverbs tells us that “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones,” (17:22). So, what do we do when the dark storm clouds roll in? And what about our final appointment with death?
Will a sunny smile keep death at bay? No! If our hope can’t see us through our darkest days, and through the valley of the shadow of death, it is not true hope.
The disciples of Jesus Christ went through a period despair. But fortunately, their hope returned when the condition that caused their despair was reversed — with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Let’s see why the resurrection is the only foundation for a life of hope today.
The Death of Hope
Imagine what the disciples felt the evening after Jesus was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb.
Several women went to the tomb the next morning to anoint Jesus’ body. But the tomb was empty. An angel told them Jesus had risen from the dead. They ran back to tell the disciples. Peter and John raced to the tomb; and, indeed, it was empty. After discovering the empty tomb, they were still terribly discouraged and confused.
What did it mean? “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (John 10:9-10). Then the disciples went home. All their hopes for the future had been focused on the Savior. When He died, the disciples’ dreams died.
The Rebirth of Hope
Only one thing brought life to the disciples’ hopeless hearts — meeting and communing personally with the risen Savior.
Three days after the crucifixion, two disciples were walking dejectedly from Emmaus to Jerusalem when a Stranger joined them. Breaking bread together later, they recognized Him — Jesus was alive! They raced back to Jerusalem to tell the others.
As the disciples listened to the two tell about seeing Jesus near Emmaus, He appeared in their midst. They thought He was a ghost! (Luke 24:37) As Jesus kept appearing to the disciples, their hope was rekindled and seeds were planted in their hearts for the future (John 21:1-25).
When the future comes alive again, you know hope has been reborn. Within a few more days, the disciples received marching orders from Jesus for world evangelism. They received the Holy Spirit and boldly took a stand against the authorities who had crucified their Lord.
Religion can’t give the hope mankind needs, but the resurrection of the living Savior can.
The Life of Hope
After seeing the mighty Allies on D-Day, the world gained hope that the war would soon end. When Christ came out of the grave, the war against death was over. When fear of death is gone, the Christian needn’t fear anything. And when fear is banished, hope is set free to embrace the future fearlessly.
Jesus defeated the temptations of Satan. So can we if we are in Him (Matthew 4:1-11). When Christ died, was buried, and resurrected, so were we (Romans 6). The resurrection is the pivotal event of the Christian faith: “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
If Jesus were still in His borrowed tomb, we’d be helpless and hopeless. But because of His resurrection, we have hope today and every day.
When someone asks you for “a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), tell them Jesus conquered the grave and promised that you will as well. Say that hope helps keep you alive.
Health and heaven — two resurrection-based reasons for having hope!