The local atheist club was sitting at the table behind me the other night while I was doing some writing in my favorite coffee shop. I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation. I had to chuckle. For one thing, they were planning a Christmas Eve “service,” minus Jesus or God or anything religious, of course. But also, I was a little amused because I used to be one of them—an atheist, that is. That was many years ago. Back then, I didn’t consider myself a political atheist or an activist, like so many atheists these days. I simply didn’t believe in God. Funny how things turn out.
I found myself thinking about why I am no longer an atheist…but rather a sold-out follower of Jesus. And why the hope that now fills my heart has become for me, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, an “anchor for my soul” (Hebrews 6:19). A fitting topic for 30 Days of Hopeful, don’t you think?
I reflected on the ways I draw joy and purpose from the practical, day-to-day hope threaded throughout the Bible. This hope “does not put us to shame,” because God’s amazing love has been “poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Over the years, it has proven to be a sturdy hope. I’ve learned that it’s real, tangible, and stands up under the fires of suffering (Romans 5:3-5).
But there is another type of hope I’ve discovered. This kind is a stark reminder for me that this world is not my home. It’s a far-reaching, transcendent brand of hope. Something I can’t quite get my arms around—not yet, anyway. This is the eternal hope God promises to the followers of His Son. It’s the same hope Colossians 1:5 tells me is “stored up for me in heaven.” The word translated as “stored up” can also mean “destined.”
I’m destined for this eternal hope. That means it’s my destiny. And my destination. I think it’s the “destination” aspect of hope that came to mind the other night as I listened to the atheists. There was lots of laughter in their conversation. Lightheartedness. Even camraderie. But I couldn’t pick up a trace of certainty about their purpose—other than just “not being religious.” I’m not sure any of them had a grasp of their destiny. Or of their destination.
I found myself thanking God, filled with fresh gratitude that years ago, a friend put a book in my hands, and simply said: “One day, when you have questions, read this.” The book was by a former atheist. And I gotta tell you. C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity nailed me. In the time it took to read chapter 8, God snatched me from the “dominion of darkness” (Colossians 1:13) and “brought me into the kingdom of the Son He loves.” It’s in Him that I have “redemption and the forgiveness of my sins” (verse 14).
No wonder I have hope. Hope in the daily stuff. Hope for my future and the future of those I love. And hope for heaven. It’s stored up waiting for me there. And as my shelf-life gets shorter, that’s better and better news. But until then, I walk in confident expectation, knowing I am destined. I have a destiny. And I am traveling toward my destination.
February 27th, 2016 at 11:10 am
Hi Marilynn – thanks for sharing this piece. I’m reading Mere Christianity right now. The version I have is divided into several “books” so chapter 8 would probably be chapter 3 of book 2, titled “the shocking alternative”. I assume this is the chapter that “got” you? It makes a case that I’ve heard David and other pastors make before about how you cannot accept Jesus as a great moral teacher but not God, as then His claims to be God would be false and thus not in line with a great moral teacher.
I’m not finished the book yet but it is a fantastic read and one I expect to re-read several times. Anyhow, thanks for sharing and for mentioning your experience with this book.
February 28th, 2016 at 4:48 pm
Sorry I missed your comment when it first came in. Maybe you’ve finished the book by now. Yes, the “shocking alternative” chapter is excellent. But the real clincher for me was Chapter 8 (and I can’t remember which section it was in). Lewis gives a masterful and very convicting description of pride as the devil’s chief strategy. Ouch!
March 7th, 2016 at 7:40 am
Ah I see it now. Book Three “Christian Behavior”, Chapter 8 “The Great Sin”. I’ll be on that in the next day or two. If it’s about pride then I suspect it may nail me pretty hard as well. Something I really need to work on.
March 8th, 2016 at 5:06 pm
Yes, sadly Lewis has a wonderful way of hitting one between the eyes…and you don’t even mind that he nailed you:)