By Ron Hull
Dr. Harold G. Wolff, a pioneer researcher into the relationship between stress and disease wrote: “Hope, faith and purpose in life is medicinal. This is not merely a statement of belief but a conclusion proved by meticulously controlled scientific experiment.” His comment is close to—if not a paraphrase of—the Bible’s declaration that faith, hope and love are the three abiding realities which give meaning to human life.
There is no better controlling purpose in life than to love. The Teacher said loving (God and neighbor) summed up the essence of the Biblical message. With such a purpose, each day is complete in itself, regardless of what other long range goals one might have. Whether particular goals are reached or not, if one is true to his over-arching purpose, he can say at the end of the day, “It is finished.”
Faith hardly needs to be promoted. We are inveterate believers. The only question is what will be the object of our faith? It should be faith with enough size to sustain us in the face of two inevitable events—suffering and death. Faith which fails in the presence of these hard-nosed realities is unworthy to be embraced.
And, could it be that the loss of hope has contributed to the steady rise in the suicide rate—30% since 1999 according to the Center for Disease Control? Today there are more suicides in America than homicides, though most don’t know it because homicides get more press coverage. Even more troubling is that the age of those who die by suicide is getting younger. Why go on if it seems…. hopeless?
It is in this kind of world that the name “Emmanuel” takes on huge significance. It is the name that was given to a baby born in an obscure village around 2,000 years ago. It means “God is with us.” The nature of the event stirred Phillips Brooks to write, “How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!”
If the story is true, it means that we are loved, that we are never without hope and that faith which will not disappoint is possible.
How silently, how silently! It happened—and happens still—in a quiet place.