The story of Malaysia Flight 370 was a difficult one to follow. At the most basic level, we hurt for the family and loved ones of the 239 passengers as their agony played out in excruciating bits and pieces under the bright lights of a world wide stage. On another level, this incident seemed to reflect many of the concerns and anxieties everyone faces in the 21st century: safety issues (in regard to accidents or terrorism), uncertainty in regard to the unknown (and sometimes unknowable), and the overall tenuous nature of human existence.
One particular day’s news seemed to bring these things together as it was reported that friends and family attempting to call the passengers were hearing the phones of the people they were trying to contact ringing. But it wasn’t true. Apparently the way our phones work is that we hear a ringing supplied by the phone company while they are attempting to make our connection. They do this because if we didn’t hear something in the first few seconds, we would hang up (I think they’re right about that). Jeff Kagan, a technology analyst, commented on the confusion this technology has created for the families and friends of the victims saying, “I hate that they have hope.”
He’s right. There aren’t too many things that are worse than false hope. To be set up for something intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally and then have the rug pulled out from under your feet can be devastating. It’s certainly more than people in this situation should have to bear. At the same time, we understand their desperation for anything that remotely resembles hope. We would be doing exactly the same thing. Hope is a universal aspiration.
Paul shared Jeff Kagan’s feelings about false hope when he wrote, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Paul wanted nothing to do with lovely thoughts or nice sentimentalities—if hope wasn’t firmly rooted in reality he wanted no part of it!
This is from a man who knew what it was like to be on the other side—where he believed and acted on some things that were untrue. Having gone through the painful process of admitting the wrongness of his beliefs and actions (see 1 Timothy 1:13ff), he had no desire to go down any path but that of truth and certainty. Therefore, when he speaks about hope, it’s not just wishful thinking—it’s the conclusion of a person who is as tough minded as they come.
And when he speaks of hope, he inevitably speaks of Jesus (see 1 Timothy 1:1). Hope that is anchored in anything else is false and will inevitably lead to crushing disappointment, but hope in Him will never disappoint (see Romans 5:5 NASB). Too good to be true? If you understand God’s goodness you’ll know it’s too good not to be true. It’s my prayer that if there are those who don’t know God among the people who have lost family and loved ones in this tragedy, they will find the hope of Jesus to fill their hearts and console their spirits.