You will probably recognize the movie that begins with this voice over monologue:

I was sheriff of this county when I was 25 years old. Hard to believe.

My grandfather was a law man. Father too. Me and him was sheriffs at the same time; him up at Plano and me out here. I think he was pretty proud of that. I know I was.

Some of the old time sheriffs never even wore a gun. Lot of folks find that hard to believe. Jim Scarburt never carried one (that’s the younger Jim). Gaston Borkins wouldn’t wear one up in Comanche County.

I always liked to hear about the old-timers. Never missed a chance to do so. Cain’t help but compare yourself against the old-timers. Cain’t help but wonder how they’d have operated these times.

There’s this boy I sent to the electric chair at Huntsville: my arrest and my testimony. He killt a 14-year-old girl. Paper said it was a crime of passion, but he told me that they wasn’t any passion to it. Told me that he’d been planning to kill somebody for about as long as he could remember. Said that if they turned him out he’d do it again. Said he knew he was going to hell; be there in about 15 minutes. I don’t know what to make of that. I surely do don’t.

The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But . . . I don’t want to push my chips forward . . . and go out and meet something . . . I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, I’ll be part of this world.

Without giving away too much, I’m going to offer that by the end of this movie, the sheriff making these observations (Ed Tom Bell) had decided that the changes coming upon the world were simply beyond his ability to understand, and that he wasn’t willing to be part of that world any longer. Hence the name of the movie: No Country for Old Men.

What kind of world might we expect to experience in the not-too-distant future according to the haunting story provided us by Cormac McCarthy and the Coen Brothers?

I want to suggest that it’s a world where there is no meaning or purpose: where everything that happens, good or bad, occurs by mere chance. It’s a world where the only moral rule is that there are no moral rules: a world where it seems that the amorality produced by philosophical nihilism has become a monstrous, relentless, unstoppable juggernaut that simply can’t be reasoned with.

In other words, it’s a world without hope!

Philosophical nihilism is the belief that we live in an essentially random world void any inherent meaning or purpose. In such a world, there’s simply no ground or foundation for a thing like hope. In fact, the great architect of philosophical nihilism—Friedrich Nietzsche—once said:

Hope is the worst of all evils, for it prolongs the torments of man.

It appears that Nietzsche was a “the glass is half empty” kind of guy! Not exactly an optimist!

Of course, the starting point for Nietzsche’s philosophy of meaninglessness was the death of God. Since there is no God, said Nietzsche, there’s no inherent purpose to life, and therefore no reason to hope that good will prevail over evil in the end.

Contrary to Nietzsche, the biblical authors believed to the core of their being that God is there, that he is sovereign over the affairs of men, and that he has a plan for the planet. Thus, the biblical authors expressed a very different sentiment regarding the importance of hope. For the biblical authors, hope is huge!

According to the Bible, hope is not wishful thinking or a whistling in the dark. Biblical hope is a confident, enthusiastic sense of expectancy regarding the future. It’s a comforting confidence based on the rock-solid conviction that God is there, that he is in control, and that his benevolent purposes for humanity will most certainly be accomplished in the end.

This is why the Psalmist could say:

 I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me. (Psalms 57:2)

This is why the author of the book of Proverbs could say:

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

And this is why the prophet Jeremiah could say:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The bottom line is that the Bible contains multiple passages which encourage us to keep hoping in the Lord no matter what crud comes our way during this life.

Perhaps the most famous of these hope-encouraging passages is this one from Isaiah’s prophecy:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. [29] He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. [30] Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; [31] but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

Finally, this also explains why, near the end of his monumental letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul writes:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Do you see the stark contrast between the biblical authors and Nietzsche the philosopher regarding the value and importance of hope?

This begs the question: whose estimation should we trust?

A prominent Jewish psychiatrist named Victor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz. He was stripped of everything—property, family, and possessions. He had spent years researching and writing a book on the importance of finding meaning in life—concepts that later would be known as logotherapy.

But when he arrived in Auschwitz, even his manuscript, which he had hidden in the lining of his coat, was taken away.

Frankl would later write:

I had to undergo and overcome the loss of my spiritual child. Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a physical nor a spiritual child of my own! I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning.

Frankl was still wrestling with that question a few days later when the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up their clothes. He describes the experience this way:

I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber…. Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the main Jewish prayer, ‘Shema Yisrael’ (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.)

Frankl became convinced that this was no mere chance occurrence—God was reaching out to him, offering him spiritual strength in the midst of his horrendous trial. It was at that point that Frankl made the decision to not let go of his hope that, despite his circumstances, there was still meaning and purpose in his life.

Later, as Frankl reflected on his ordeal, he wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning:

There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life. . . . He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear almost any ‘how’.

Did you hear that?

He who has a “why” to live for can bear almost any “how.”

Mark it down: hope is huge! A sense of that our lives are pregnant with divinely conferred meaning and purpose is critical!

And yet, if movies like No Country for Old Men are any indication, people in our world are losing hope, surrendering to the idea that chance and fate rule our lives, and that trying to live a moral life is a fool’s errand. One way of interpreting No Country for Old Men is as a message of warning: the effect of Nietzsche’s philosophy of nihilistic despair is coming, growing, expanding, and there’s no stopping it!

It’s into a world that is rapidly losing any foundation for hope that Jesus wants his fully devoted followers to function as spiritual salt and light!

Will we do this? Will we be the salt and light that Jesus has called and equipped us to be? Will we, like salt, confront the moral and spiritual decay that philosophical nihilism is promoting in our world? Will we, like light, chase away the moral and spiritual darkness by helping hurting, confused people (like Sheriff  Ed Bell) see just how real the risen Christ is, and why we must never, ever, ever give up hope?

I love this quote from a pastor named Kirbyjon Caldwell:

There are two great moments in a person’s life: the moment you were born and the moment you realize why you were born.

Do you know why you were born? Have you figured that out yet?

Remember, a person who has a “why” to live for can bear almost any “how.” If we are truly convinced that our lives have a sense of holy purpose attached to them, then it doesn’t matter how despairing our culture might become, or what crud God in his sovereignty allows to come our way. We can stand firm in the faith, never at a loss for hope, always possessing a capacity for love, truly and lastingly making a difference in this world for God.

Poor Sheriff Bell!

I wish he had known the reality of Christian hope. If he had, maybe he’d still be trying to make a difference in this scary new world too.

Something to think about!