Hope. For three days this week our nation held its collective breath for news of Phillip Hughes. We hoped, we prayed. Surely someone being hit in the head by a cricket ball while wearing a helmet won't result in death? We waited to hear that he had woken up. We waited to hear the estimates of when he would be back. Now our prayers fall silent. Now we feel empty. Now that hope is gone.
Hope. It's one of those coincidences of life that Phillip was probably hoping that his name would be in the paper today. He would have hoped his name would appear beside eleven other mates set to don the hallowed baggy green in the test against India. Tragically, what should have been a name amongst others in a sports story now floods our news feeds as a nation grieves. Again another hope is gone.
We were called to pray. Those that prayed to the Christian God prayed to the one who held the power over life and death. We prayed knowing that God, in his mercy, was able and willing to do something that we couldn't. Has God failed? Were our prayers ignored? No. That God holds the power of both life and death means that, in the end, it is His decision. For whatever reason, this time it hasn't ended as we would like. It so often doesn't in this broken world.
The tragic death of Phillip Hughes reminds us of our fragility. Life doesn't just go on indefinitely, even something as innocuous as a cricket ball can bring our world crashing to the ground. I will one day die. It could be tomorrow, it could be in decades, only God holds my destiny in His hands.
We all make our plans for the future. We all have our hopes and dreams. But death is that great wrecker of hope. Death is our great enemy. It brings our plans undone. It brings our hopes undone.
But when it comes to hope in the face of death, there's a saying that is precious to Christians:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
This is a statement of hope. This is a saying founded in the historical resurrection of Jesus. The God who holds the power over life and death promises life to those who trust in Jesus. Christians hope for more than angels, clouds, and harp playing. Christians hope for more than some sort of spiritual, ethereal existence beyond the grave. Our hope is for our souls, mind, and body to be raised to new life; no longer wrecked by decay. Just as God raised Christ to new life, so too we shall be raised. This is hope.
Today, Phillip Hughes' tragic and unexpected death has confronted me with my own mortality. In the face of that, I have hope that death is not the end. Death's power has been broken because one day I will stand again never to die. Do I fear death? Yes, I don't want to die, but I face it with a sure hope of the better that will follow.