"LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them."
I was reading the book of Zecheriah this week when I came across the phrase "prisoner of hope," which he used in referring to God's people. Wow. This phrase stuck with me as I began to ponder what it meant for me, as a child of God, to be a "prisoner of hope." One of the first things I did was to look up the word hope in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines hope as: to cherish with anticipation. Both the Hebrew and Greek words for hope mean "a strong and confident expectation." An example of this would be Romans 8:24-25 that says, "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." Hope is not passive. Hope is active. Hope is not present tense but future tense. Hope is to see beyond the present circumstances.
Just last week the date of August 31st past. For most of us, this day means nothing. But for many, August 31st is the day that 16 - 18 year olds living in orphanages "graduate" and are sent on their way. Now, in this country, we think of graduation ceremonies as a time of hope and promise. I know that when we went to my nephew's graduation, it was a time of joy, especially for my nephew. This is not the case for the kids graduating from orphanages. Their future is bleak. Most of them will end up on the street. For them, many end up drug addicts, prostitutes, or committing suicide. They are cast out with little resources: career training, families to love them, or a place to live. In Russia alone, 15,000 orphans graduate every year. Of those, 30% will be unemployed, 35% will be homeless, 50% will have criminal records, and 10% commit suicide. 60% of the girls will end up in prostitution.
Every year over 14,000,000 children age out of the orphanage system.
Every day, 38,493 age out of the system.
Kids who are nearing that age must see a diminishing of hope that they will find a loving home. How hopeless they must feel as the day of their graduation approaches.
Psalm 130:5 tells us, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope." This Psalm starts out with the cry of someone whose life has reached the bottom and they are full of despair. Still, the psalmist knows he has hope in the Lord. These kids don't know this.
How can we, as Christians, give hope to these who are hopeless?
Scripture repeatedly tells us that we are not to neglect these kids. Isaiah 1:17 specifically tells us, "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." And for those who would try to dismiss this as being merely Old Testament and not relevant to Christians, James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
But how can we make a difference?
There are 40-50 million orphans worldwide that are adoptable.
There are 800 million Christian believers worldwide.
If 7% of those who claim to be believers adopted, there would be no problem.
If God hasn't called you and your family to adopt, support those families you know who are.
Donate to worthy organizations like the Abba Fund (http://www.abbafund.org/)
or Show Hope (http://www.showhope.org/)
Also, Christians should mark on their calendars days like August 31 and pray for those kids who are graduating from orphanages.
Support days like Orphan Sunday, which I blogged about previously.
But we must do something, because as Scripture reminds us again and again, God's heart is with those who are brokenhearted, those who are forgotten, those who are poor and needy, with the orphans, and the widows. If we are to truly call ourselves Christians and followers of Christ then we, too, have to identify ourselves with them. As Matthew 25: 35-37 says, "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me."
That is how we give hope to the hopeless so that they, too, will become prisoners of hope.