“A person can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”
I was taken back the first time I heard this quote because of the raw truth of it. I didn’t grow up around the church or really the promise of a Hope for tomorrow. I simply believed that if something were going to turn out the way I wanted, I would have to will it, manipulate it, pursue it and make it happen myself. Even as a teenager I experienced some intense moments of stress because often I felt overwhelmed and knew if I couldn’t make it happen then I would be a failure. I had seen others around me struggle to find purpose, hope and a reason for why they were even on this earth in the first place. Watching families around me break apart from divorce, friends throw their lives away in drug and alcohol addictions, people placing all of their hope into romantic relationships or losing themselves in the pursuit of money and fame. I honestly believed that I was destined to scrape out the best existence I could create and then one day I would die and cease to exist, life would go on and other people would fill my place.
Then one day while I was working as a server in a restaurant in town, a friend of mine from school approached me and said something had happened to him that had changed his life. This guy was famous for being a raging alcoholic in High School he would party almost every weekend and often blackout, mostly unaware of the things he had done the night before. He was also a real jerk due to his drinking, and often I avoided him because his domineer was honestly depressing. I asked him what he meant, and he said he had not had a drink in over two weeks and that he knew what his purpose in life was now. I have to be honest in that moment I thought man he must be high on something right now because there is no way that a guy like this could change, yet at the same time I was intrigued. He went on to tell me that someone had told him about a guy named Jesus and that if he surrendered his life to him and choose to follow him, that Jesus had the power to change his life and give him purpose. So he told me in that low moment, that hopeless place, he invited Jesus into his mess of a life. I was shocked! I had heard about Jesus; I was familiar with a few Bible stories, but I thought they were just fairy tails. If this was real then maybe life was not so hopeless after all, maybe I didn’t have to will my future into being, maybe there was a God that wanted to work in my life. I continued to watch my friend carefully with a bit of skepticism over proceeding months. He even began a new job working at the same restaurant as me (looking back I know God used this to get my attention). I was waiting for him to mess up to go back to his old habits, but he didn’t! Instead, he was kind to me; he was consistent; he was honest and apologized when he did or said anything that he considered non-Jesus like behavior. He invited me to church, but even though I said no he had me thinking, this Jesus guy has real power, real hope and he may just have what I need.
Six months later after seeing my friend’s life changed I reluctantly went to a High School summer camp on the coast in Washington State. My mother requested I go because she recognized my life was in need of intervention. Maybe you have been there wanting to believe that there is hope but uncertain if the hope you see in others is for you. I felt that tension. At the camp on the last day in a very unexpectant moment, I encountered Jesus. I still can’t fully explain all that happened, but I heard him speak to me in a way that I needed, he exposed my pain but not with malice or ill intent instead like a skilled surgeon he dealt with what was slowly destroying me. My unforgiveness toward family, my regrets, my fears and ultimately my lack of a purpose in this life that kept me from experiencing real hope. That day changed everything for me! I realized that God is real, that he has a purpose for every person, and that I simply needed to open myself up to experience a relationship with His son Jesus.
Many years have passed since that first moment with Jesus that changed my life, but one thing has remained and will not change if “Jesus sets you free, you are truly free.” So I encourage you today no matter what your situation or circumstance to simply invite Jesus into the mess of your life and watch him do what he does best, set people free!