A moment for thought – hope

An exploration of the importance of hope in the face of despair by Annabel Hamilton

Woman arms stretched above her in front of a sunset‘Where there is life there is hope.’

Such a hackneyed phrase. It trips off the tongue too easily, too glibly, if we remember to say it at all.

And yet we do say it.

At times of crisis, at times when there is really, it seems, nothing else left to say. We say it to the friend who has just heard the cancer has returned. To the mother who has not seen her runaway child for five years. To the family waiting by the bedside for the one they love to come out of a coma. We say it.  Sometimes.

A cliché perhaps, but in a deeper sense one of the most profound of all thoughts, because what is certainly true is that without hope there is very little life. Very little life to enjoy at any rate. Without hope there is the converse; despair. And a life of despair is not much of a life. It is in fact a mockery of life itself, dragging and pulling and gnawing away at all that should be good, that should be precious, that should be enjoyable and rich and rewarding. Despair steals all of those things away, locks them in a big black box and appears to throw away the key.

Lack of hope is a serious business.

I have been thinking about hope a lot recently and I have realised that it changes everything.

It transforms the mundane into the magical, the routine into comfortable joy, the relentlessness of life into a grand adventure. And with it come all sorts of other treasures, such as energy and vitality, drive and enthusiasm, laughter and contentment. So when it disappears, even briefly, from our lives, it really is a most serious thing.

If hope is so precious, so crucial, how do we hang on to it? How do we avoid the dark and frightening chasms of despair from opening up? After all, we do what we can to protect ourselves and those we love from unnecessary risks and dangers but nothing is foolproof. Accidents happen, people die and leave us, jobs disappear and money can evaporate overnight. No, if we are to maintain our hope, and all that goes with it, we cannot rely on externals, on other people and circumstances, because truly we have very little control at all over those things. Hardly any if truth be told. Hope must be anchored to something deeper, something more reliable and enduring – something unshakable.

I know a little about this because at times in my life I have peered into those dark chasms and have found hope almost impossible to get a hold of. In fact it seemed to have left, never to return. I have felt those waves of blackness rolling in and covering me with their indifference, when it seemed nothing, nothing, would excite or enthuse me ever again, for there was no hope left.

And what have I discovered? Why should you bother reading this? After all, bad stuff happens and we cope or we don’t. Isn’t that what life does to us? Isn’t that basically it?

Well, no. Not in my experience (and I can only speak for myself). I have discovered that hope can return, that in fact it never went away in the first place. It got buried under those waves, but all the time it was there, waiting patiently to return, gently buoying me up even though I was unaware of its presence. It was trying to speak to me – to tell me that it was still with me and that one day I would feel its presence again and enjoy its company, that my life would in fact be gradually, but most definitely, re-inflated with its precious oxygen. And then I would be OK. Actually I would be better than that – I would be great.

And it was right. It happened. Hope returned, gradually at first, but then with a steadily building momentum until it became unstoppable. And with it returned all those things that make life worth living. All the wonderful treasures given to us to enjoy. Life can be lived again in colour, at first perhaps a rather washed out, muted colour, but better, so much better than the black and white version of the days of despair. Later still a strong vibrant colour emerges – a technicolour life.

One of my favourite books is Romans in the Bible, written by the Apostle Paul. I think he had it about right when he said to his friends: “I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in Him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I wish the same for you.