Can not having hope kill you?
New Year’s greetings to all of you! To ring in this new year, Dr. David Reagan, Dennis Pollock of Spirit of Grace Ministries and I discussed on television’s Christ in Prophecy why you should be looking forward to the future with great hope.
Dr. Reagan: One of the things that impressed upon me many, many years ago concerning the essentiality of hope for life was the book called Man’s Search for Meaning. It was written by Viktor Frankl. Viktor Frankl was a psycho-analyst who spent World War II in a Nazi death camp. All of his family members including his wife were killed in that death camp. He was the only one who survived.
Out of Frankl’s experiences he came up with a whole new concept of psychotherapy called Logotherapy. Until that time psychotherapy was built upon the Freudian concept that the fundamental motivating factor in life is the sex drive, but he came out of the death camp saying, “No, not at all.” The fundamental drive in life according to this man, who by the way was not a Christian and so was looking at it from a secular worldview, is the will for meaning. He believed we are fundamentally motivated by the desire to find meaning in life. People must find meaning, and if they cannot find meaning then life becomes meaningless. When life becomes hopeless, people die.
Frankl noticed while he was in the death camp that as Christmas approached the Jewish people would say, “We are going to be released at Christmas.” He admitted there was no reason or rationality for that claim except for the fact that they knew that all of their captors claimed to be Christians and that Christmas was an important day to them, so they assumed they were going to be released at Christmas. That news would spread all over the camp and everybody would get their hopes up that they were going to be released at Christmas. Christmas would come, Christmas would pass, and he reported that by the hundreds the people would just lie down in bed and die. They gave up. They had no hope. That’s how important hope is to life just going on.
Dennis, you once mentioned to me a story that I think Chuck Colson told about the Nazi work camps. What was that story?
Dennis Pollock: Yes, it’s a fascinating story which goes exactly along with what you’ve been saying. Colson tells of a concentration or work camp where the prisoners were forced into working for the Nazi machine. They were prisoners, so they didn’t want to, but they had no choice but to work. The workers had their particular jobs to help the army out with whatever it was they were making.
One day the Allies came over on a bombing raid and blew up the whole place, and so they had no more machinery to do any kind of work. The leaders of the prison camp were determined to keep these guys busy, though, but they had no more machinery to do anything. So, they told them, “Alright, tomorrow you are going to go out and you’re going to dig this hole.” The guards had them working on a huge pit which they dug out for that particular day. There were a lot of prisoners, so they could make a huge gaping hole. They went to bed wondering, “Why in the world did we do that? What’s the point of that? Maybe we are going to hide in it during the next bombing raid.”
The next day comes along and the commander tells them that they are going to go fill the very same hole up. They just went out and undid what they had done the day before. The following day they are told they are going to dig a new hole somewhere else. The Nazi’s just had them digging holes and filling them up.
In some ways you might think digging useless holes would be superior to building war materials as at least they weren’t helping the Nazis anymore. They were just doing meaningless work, but despite that small comfort the prisoners began to crack. Some of them committed suicide and some ran for the fence so that they were shot down and electrocuted. They just couldn’t handle the reality that what they were doing had no meaning whatsoever.
If you don’t believe in Christ and in the coming of Christ and His future reign of the world, then life is meaningless. If life is meaningless that’s when a person begins to do these kinds of irrational and suicidal things.
Dr. Reagan: I was reading an article by Dave Hunt recently and he was talking about the Atheist view of life. He said, “Stop and think about it for a moment. How disheartening it must be for an Atheist. The Atheist greatest hope is that there is nothing after life.”
Dennis Pollock: Yes, that’s the best he can hope for.
Dr. Reagan: What kind of hope is that?
Nathan Jones: It reminds me of Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.” What a great thing it is to be a Christian! We have that anchor to our soul that gives our life while here on this earth purpose, and that purpose is to do good works for the Lord until His return (Eph. 2:10).
In the next part of this series on looking forward with hope, we’ll plumb the depths of how hope and faith are connected.