Monday, November 5, 2012

Hope Halfway to Nigeria

No one does hope in advertising better than our college’s cafeteria catering company: Sodexho. They advertise food that sounds delicious, exotic even. Cilantro chicken with creamy mashed potatoes. Stir fry with every possible veggie you could imagine.

But after I wait in that line lasting halfway to Nigeria, I finally get up to the counter and one of two things happens. They are either out of what I want, or, while they advertised corn, they’re actually serving carrots (ick).

It happens all the time. But see, hope is a funny thing. I see the sign telling me what today’s meal is and I think, “Maybe, maybe today lunch will be good.” Hope pervades for about 30 seconds until I found out we are having catfish mush instead of the promised chicken.

No matter how many times I’m disappointed, hope returns. It’s a powerful thing. Hope may possibly be even stronger than fear. Fear can paralyze when desperation kicks in. It only takes a drop of hope to kill despair and motivate again.

The problem with hope in advertising is that the companies really don’t have to fulfill whatever they have promised. Hope is not a promise—it’s the chance at something good. Hope isn’t a sure thing, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s simply the desire, the anticipation of something better.

In order to look at hope in advertising, I decided to look at the expert of advertising: Super Bowl commercials. My first commercial is a Chrysler commercial featuring Clint Eastwood. The ad focuses on the way America has returned from the recession, specifically emphasizing Detroit and the car industry. The ad is full of praise for American hard work, character, and determination. The message is, we have gotten through this recession, we can get through everything. Depend on America. Depend on Chrysler.

The second commercial takes a more humorous view on hope. In this commercial, a man is seen driving through a post-apocalyptic city in a Chevy. He reaches his group of friends, only to find out Dave died because Dave drove a Ford. The message of this commercial: The zombie apocalypse is coming… but have no fear. With a Chevy, you will be prepared for anything.

Hope makes us feel good. It lifts up our spirits and makes us believe again. But why is hope so powerful?

Ironically, one of the places hope is most deeply explored in the Bible is the book of Job. Job struggles for hope in the midst of devastation.

“What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient?” (Job 6:11, NIV).

There seems to be no hope in Job’s situation. Check that, there is no hope in Job’s situation. But Job’s hope is not found in his situation; rather it is found in his understanding of the character of God.

It seems simple, hope in God. Yet when we say hope in God, do we really understand what we are saying? We seek God to work in our situation, yes. We seek God’s hope in our situation, yes. But what happens when there is no hope in the situation. Like a death—that person will not be raised from the dead and no matter how many other friends or family members you have, that loved one cannot be replaced.

There are circumstances in which hope cannot be found. What do you do with child prostitution? Or suicide? Genocide and child hunger? The pain and scarring from such atrocities cannot be made right by a simple replacement of past pain with the anticipation of something good in the future. There are too many questions, too much history, too much destruction that can never be made right in the situation at hand. There is no hope.

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15, NIV).

That is why hoping in God is such a radical idea. Rather than hoping that a situation will become so much better, you are hoping in truth. You are hoping in the very character of God. He is sovereign. He is good. Therefore, my hope is in him.

What does hoping in advertising say about us as humans? That in our desperation we search for something bigger than our current lives. Whether that is a future zombie apocalypse or the recession.

Why does hope strike such a human cord in all of us? Hope simply says, my situation may never get better. I may experience these scars for the rest of my life.  But there is Someone bigger and better than my situation out there, and that Someone has died to save me.

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