Brittany Maynard and the Melbourne Cup

Two big news items have been in the media recently. Seemingly unrelated, but are they?

Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with incurable terminal brain cancer and decided earlier this year that she would complete her “bucket list” and then choose the date of her death instead of living with and dying of cancer. Brittany died aged 29 years old on 1 November after taking a fatal dose of prescribed medication.

This Tuesday just passed was Melbourne Cup Day. The “race that stops a nation” is the reason for more bets being made, more office lunches being had and more “fascinators” being bought (men – look it up) than any other time of the year. If you live in Melbourne, you even get the day off work and school so it’s hard not to get caught up with the hype of one horse winning a race.

With her grim prognosis, Brittany had given up all hope of living the life she had planned. She had recently gotten married, but after receiving her prognosis she decided that she would determine what happened with her life. She would control the date of her death.

The millions of people that made a bet on the Melbourne Cup hoped that they would win on their wager. Some won, but most lost. Their hope was based on “their” horse being faster than the other 23 horses that were in the race. Other than the name of the horse – most people wouldn’t have known anything about the horse on which they were placing money on.

What ties these two stories together? – HOPE. Having hope and losing hope cause not only real emotions in us but also affect our words and behaviour.

Having hope causes many people to bet on a horse in a race that they know nothing about – in the hope that they will “win big”. Even though the Bible says that we can’t take it with us and don’t know where our money will eventually end up. (Job 1:21; Psalm 39:6)

Losing hope can have real and permanent consequences. When we lose hope we can lose money, relationships or ultimately our life. Losing hope for the life that she anticipated caused Brittany Maynard to choose to end her life on her terms.

This month, everyone within PeaceWise has been praying for you – the broader PeaceWise community. We’ve been humbled by the breadth of issues which you are facing – mental illness, family breakdown, serious illness, unsaved family members, conflict at work, conflict at home, trouble finding employment. At the same time, many of you have shared what you hope for – greater effectiveness in ministry, more intimacy with God, more lives won for Jesus, reconciliation with people close to you, outreach through upcoming carol events, God’s power and grace and wisdom as you yourselves act as peacemakers in difficult conflict situations….

The Bible tells us that there is only thing in this life that we can have sure hope in – the goodness and promises and glory of God. If we choose to confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord and lived and died for us (Romans 10:9) – we can be sure that God will never leave us or forsake us; nothing can separate us from the love of God; and that God is always for us – even if our life doesn’t look or turn out the way we expected. (Deut 31:6; Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 8:28-29, 31, 38-39.).

In fact Romans 5:1-5 says that,

since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

All other hopes in this life will at some time fail us because we live in a broken, sinful world. We let others down and others let us down – sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. When (not if) you or someone you know has lost hope, you can serve them by pointing them to the only one who is the true and everlasting hope – Jesus Christ.

But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)

Hope in God is the essential ingredient in seeing the bigger picture in life – even in our relational conflicts.

By seeing the bigger picture – the eternal picture, our perspective changes and our paradigm shifts. From this new, transformed vantage point we are then able to work out what God’s will is because we are seeing the world, including our conflicts, from God’s perspective. And we are able to truly hope and trust in him, his goodness, and his unfailing commitment to love us and care for us no matter what.

That’s real hope.