Fairfax Friday: How Does One Lose Hope?

Enslaved in Egypt
I never understood how my people the Israelites let the Egyptians enslave them and keep them enslaved (Exodus 1). The Bible is clear that they were numerous, and kept growing more numerous and powerful, even under oppression. I always wondered why they never pulled themselves up and fought back.

image courtesy of siewlian via sxc.hu
I guess you could get so worn out with oppression that it weakens you physically and emotionally. And when you are told over and over that you are weak and can’t do anything, you start to really believe it. I bet this mindset started with a few key influential people, and they helped spread that mentality of hopelessness and despair.

That's how circus elephants are trained. They are chained up when they are little, and learn that they can never escape. So when a weak rope is tied around their ankles when they are bigger and stronger, all they can remember is "I cannot escape."

I struggled to understand how a powerful people, a people loved by God, could stay enslaved. But I’ve seen this same mentality in Allendale.


Enslaved in Allendale
In general, I can group people in Allendale in three categories. First, there are some really good people here in Allendale, who are working to help break the condition and mindset of generational poverty. Some focus on immediate needs, and some on long-term solutions. Both are needed, and I’m grateful for all those who have plowed ahead in the face of adversity.

Second, there are some really bad people here. These folks seek to keep others down so that they can move up and maintain their status. They are selfishly focused on their own wants, and may do things to appear as if they are helping others. But there is a difference between really caring, and going down a checklist of to-do items.

But the rest, probably 70% of the county, are numb to any hope. They are like zombies, crudely ambling through life with no hope for change. For generations, they haven't known any difference, that life even could be different. For most, the hope has been gone for decades.

How did they lose hope? Probably several reasons:
  • Economic downturns due to changes (loss of industry and tourism)
  • The "bad" people in charge oppressed the people for their own selfish gain
  • The "bad" people lied to the people, promising things but never delivering
  • As poverty grew, vision for long-term goals was lost, and people focused on immediate needs

The good people encourage me. The bad people anger me. The hopeless people sadden me.


Where Would Jesus Go
This is why Jesus would pick Allendale. Not so much because of the physical poverty (but that is part of it), but because of the spiritual and emotional despair. Jesus wasn't born to overthrow Israel's oppressors, but to help people trust Him no matter what their circumstances.

I tend to forget the gospel. I forget that Jesus isn't about making my life easy. He's about making my life one that worships Him. 


The Only Hope
Last December, Joanna and I (along with our kids) sat in the living room of a gentlemen who told us, “There is no hope for this town. If anything will change, this town will need to hit rock bottom, like a drunk needs to. But nothing is going to change this place.” He could not figure out for the life of himself why we would leave Greenville and move here.

First of all, how could Allendale hit any more rock bottom? What did he think "rock bottom" looks like?

Second, there is a hope, but it is not in the power of any people. Our hope is in a powerful and loving God. 

We have a God who showed His power in the plagues, His protection at the Red Sea, and His provision in the wilderness. And He is not just God of the Israelites, but He is our personal and present Lord. 

I believe He is showing (and will continue to show) His power, protection, and provision in Allendale. The gospel of Jesus Christ is as real and true here as it is anywhere.


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