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How to survive when down to your last card


There’s an exercise I lead, where I give everyone in the group four 3x5 cards, and ask them to write the four most important things or people in their life. Then I ask them to make a choice.

“A tragedy hits — and you’re going to lose one of the most important things in your life. Except, unlike real life, you choose which one. Drop that card on the floor.” I get some looks, but soon cards are dropping.

It starts to get ugly when I ask them to make that same kind of choice again. And then, “With just the two most important things in your life left, a tragedy is going to take one of them. You can keep one, but you have to drop one.”

For some, it’s virtually impossible to make that choice. But eventually, everyone is down to one card. Now comes the question.

“You now are holding in your hand a card that represents the most important thing or person in your life. Is it something you can lose?”

Suddenly, I found myself doing this in real life, when the love of my life was taken from me. My next-to-the-last card was removed from my hand. I was left with one card.

The card I lost was the woman I couldn’t imagine living without. But the card I had left was what I would have chosen as my last card. The only treasure I cannot lose. I would have written on my last card, “My personal love relationship with Jesus Christ.” Not Jesus the religion. Jesus the relationship. It is my one certain reality. The anchor for my hope — no matter what cards I may lose.

It is hope with a written guarantee — from God Himself, as recorded in His Book:

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Disease-proof. Divorce-proof. Disaster-proof. Death-proof.

All other hopes have one disqualifying weakness: They’re “loseable.” A truth that hit me when “my baby,” so alive the night before, was suddenly gone.

The hope robbers we face in life are strong. Grief, pain, suffering, failure—in your work, relationships, finances, your education, your dream. The heartbreak and self-doubt of a broken love, a breaking or broken marriage. The lifequake of broken health. The relentless cloud of the wounds and pain of your past.

Hope must be strong to fight back after knockout punches. And in order for hope to be strong, it has to be “unlosable.” The anchor has to be stronger than the storm.

This hope is not a program, pill, religion or belief. It’s a Person. He is the only Person in human history who conquered what has conquered every other person who’s ever lived: death. Brutally crucified by Rome’s professional executioners. Buried in a tomb sealed with a massive stone and guarded by soldiers who were charged by the governor to “make it as secure as you can.” They did. But the Man in the tomb was unstoppable.

So hope has a name. His name is Jesus. He is living hope.

Does the hope erase the pain, the grief? No. It envelops it. It is the greater counterweight on the other side of the scale. For me, the sadness and loneliness are always lurking in the background. But the hope — along with its by-products of joy and peace — are the prominent, major-chord melody playing loudly in the foreground.

When Jesus came, He walked the cold streets of our world. He lived the pain of betrayal, injustice, awful loneliness, hellish temptation, violent death. But when He died on that cross and vacated that sealed tomb, He gave us a new perspective on the pain, unfairness and grieving of our life.

It’s called “eternity.” Our embattled lives on earth are not all there is. This is the opening act. This is Hotel Earth. Not home.

Our life here, with all of its hope robbers, is a small dot compared to the panoramic sweep of the forever we’re created for. We can think differently in our grieving because of the revolution made possible by the resurrection. Jesus added a transformative word to the word life. Everlasting. It’s in the “everlasting” zone that we find meaning for our pain, healing for our brokenness, and hope for our “hopelessness.”

Excerpt from “Hope When Your Heart Is Breaking”, book by Ron Hutchcraft, copyright 2021.


© Ronald P. Hutchcraft 2021



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