You just never know when and where something profound will hit you between the eyes.
It happened to me recently when I watched the newest release in the Angel Wars animated series. The video is a compilation of individual but related segments that follow the adventures of the newest members of the Angel Wars team, Kira and Eli. They are not yet full Guardian Angels, so their inexperience makes for interesting viewing for kids and adults, too.
One of the segments tells the story of two messenger angels who have been dispatched to deliver words from God (“Maker” in the series) to a young girl. The guardians-in-training have been assigned to help the messengers complete their mission, but Eli — an impatient but skilled young warrior — isn’t interested. After all, how important are mere messages compared to the work he does engaging the enemy in fierce battles to protect humanity from evil and darkness? None of the angels knows what the message says, but they have strict instructions to deliver it swiftly and at all costs.
Much to Eli’s surprise, demonic forces interrupt their journey and it seems like all of hell has broken loose on them to stop this message from getting to its intended recipient. In fact, the messenger angels are taken hostage which leaves it up to the apprentice guardians to finish the task. After a hot engagement against the enemy forces, Eli and Kira make it to the place where they find the one to whom the message is addressed.
Turns out, it’s an 8-year-old girl whose brother is sick in the hospital. As she kneels down by her brother’s bed to pray, Eli opens the message scroll, reads it, then whispers in her ear, “He’s going to be okay.” Shocked at the simplicity of the message, Eli is tempted to dismiss the whole episode as an unnecessary waste of spiritual power. All that work, sweat, and peril just to say five words to a young girl? But then he realizes that his battle was well worth the risk, because those five words imparted something rare and desperately needed in the situation — hope.
When circumstances press in and shut out the light of possibility, nothing is more powerful than hope. And nowhere does that light shine dimmer than in our urban centers and inner cities.
There are people doing wonderful things and making a difference in the lives of urban teens and families in places with unrelenting poverty, virulent disease, and barbaric violence and brutality. I submit that the greatest gains are being made where the underlying message is one of hope, and I think this is borne out when the lessons learned from the programs are sustained over time and reproduce through generations of people and groups. Indeed, what is the true gain if someone changes their behavior for three months, six months, or a year — the time periods usually measured by funders of post-program evaluations — if three years later relapse sets in and holds lives hostage again?
Hope sometimes becomes the forgotten stepchild of the Christian culture. We preach faith, encourage strength, and definitely stress obedience. But let’s not forget to impart hope, for it is hope that enables people to cast their eyes toward a maybe-distant horizon beyond the despair of where they are now. But the object of their hope is vitally important.
We can’t guide people down a path of hope in ability, intellect, education, wealth, or political power. Our faith bids us “Hope thou in God” to remedy our discouragement and depression. We can’t offer anything less to those to whom we minister and touch. All our planning, praying, teaching, talking, and battling is well worth it to deliver to a sick heart sweet hope deferred.