My grandfather was born in the year 1900.
The year he turned 14, World War I began. It ended when he was 18. Twenty-two million people were killed. That same year, the Spanish Flu pandemic hit. It lasted until his 20th birthday. Fifty million people die in two years.
When he was 29, the Great Depression collapsed the world economy and crippled a nation. Unemployment was 25%. The World GDP dropped 27%. It lasted until he was 33.
The year he turned 39, World War II began. By the time he was 41, the U.S. was fully entangled in it. Between his 39th and 45th birthdays, 75 million people gave their lives on a battlefield. The U.S. became the first and only nation in history to use a nuclear bomb in a time of war.
At 50, the Korean War began. Five million people perished. At 54, the Vietnam conflict started and didn’t end for 20 years. Four million people died.
At 62, he experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest during the Cold War our world came to nuclear devastation.
In 1973, at the age of 73, Roe v. Wade reshaped our nation. Abortion was framed as a person’s right to choose. Since then, that choice has taken the lives of more than 62 million children.
Over 84 years, he experienced all of these things along with massive social, economic and technological change. During his time, he had two baby girls who died as infants. He adopted one son. That son was my father. Today, four generations of Balthrop’s carry his name.
My grandfather knew what it meant to live in challenging times. He understood the grit and relentless determination required to valiantly stand in the face of difficulty. He weathered these storms with joy because of the hope that was in him. In the face of every adversity, he experienced the faithfulness of God.
Like my grandfather, my father faced the struggles of his generation. With every story he told, what shines through was his unwavering confidence that God is with us. God is for us. And God’s desire for us is something good, something eternal. That confidence is contagious. I know because I caught it. I hope my kids and grandkids catch it too.
The politics and problems of our generation may lead us to believe our times are worse than the “good ol’ days”. I have friends in the hospital right now struggling to take their next breath. Yet the glory of any generation isn’t found in the comforts they keep, but in the conflicts they overcome.
I’ve learned from my father and his father before him that hope doesn’t come from the circumstances we face, but in the relationships we honor. Specifically, hope begins when you place your faith in Jesus Christ. Christ stands ready to forgive and to heal after you make the worst decision on the worst day of your life. He is with you to celebrate your victories. He empowers you for every right choice. He walks with you as you take your next step of faith.
The next generation will be required to solve problems we’ve not yet faced using technology we don’t yet have by answering questions we’ve not yet thought to ask. Like my father and his father before him, we can be the generation that equips the next with hope. We can be the people to faithfully honor God and one another.