Imagine a tuxedo-clad butler coming toward you where you are seated at a large, elegant table decorated with priceless crystal and beautiful china. He sets before you a silver tray, its gleaming cover as reflective as a mirror. “A gift to you from the master of the house,” he states with a crisp English accent.
Immediately you begin to ask yourself, “What waits under the cover?” Is it some delicacy or culinary delight? Or could it be something else…something even more precious, such as a rare piece of jewelry or perhaps a priceless artifact?
You raise the cover gingerly, heart quickening with anticipation.
The only thing to greet your eyes, however, is the bottom of the silver tray. Empty space, in which all you can see, is the reflection of your own face.
You cast a disappointed glance at the butler.
“Air,” he explains smartly, “rich with oxygen.”
“…it would be viewed as a gift beyond value, making even the most precious of diamonds and rubies worthless trinkets in comparison.”
Such a gift, of course, elicits little thankfulness under normal circumstances. But, how would things be different if that same offering were being made to sailors trapped beneath the waves, or a skier buried by an avalanche?
Then suddenly, it would be viewed as a gift beyond value, making even the most precious of diamonds and rubies worthless trinkets in comparison.
Something so ordinary;
Something so plentiful;
Something we routinely take for granted whose sudden absence may well make the difference between life and death.
Such is the paradoxical nature of the world in which we live. For whether or not we notice, most everyone around us at one time or another bears the slight bluish tint of anoxia, a shortage of air.
But there is something else, equally as precious as oxygen, for which many of us are starved. It is hope—the expectation of future good, without which no human soul can flourish and thrive.
Hope Sustains Us
Proverbs 13:12 tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and no matter where we find ourselves, be it on the battlefield, in the boardroom, or at the bedside of an ailing loved one, no words in the English language are more devastating to us than hearing, “there is no hope,”
Log on to your computer or turn on your radio or TV and you’re sure to hear why so many believe that hope is lost. Stories of massive job losses, widespread economic instability, natural disasters, escalating crime, political unrest, terrorist attacks, and military conflict abound.
Even closer to home you may face your own hopelessness. A wayward child; a close friend’s failing health; a family member’s struggle with addiction; bills that outnumber bank account balances; or perhaps, the lingering sting of a fractured marriage.
The list of reasons why so many are quick to abandon hope goes on and on.
Yet, amidst this bitter reality, the truth remains that in the deepest recesses of our souls we all still yearn for hope. More importantly, we need hope. Even in the most troubling of times, something deep within us longs to believe that positive outcomes are still possible, no matter how improbable. At our core we long to believe that things can be better.
“…it’s hope that gives us the strength to stand tall after we’ve taken a fall…”
After all, it’s hope that gives us the strength to stand tall after we’ve taken a fall;
Its hope that enables us to trust when we are told waiting is a must;
It’s hope that allows us to endure when circumstances around us seem so very unsure.
And its hope that allows us to cling to the expectation of a future good, even when the challenges before us loom incredibly large.
Yes, hope isn’t optional. It’s necessary. We need hope in our lives. For hope is to the soul what oxygen is to our bodies. Without oxygen, our mind and muscles cease functioning, our blood quits flowing and within minutes, our physical bodies die.
Similarly, without hope in our lives, depression and despair quickly crowd out peace and joy and in time, the weight of our hurts, fears, sickness and sadness leave our hearts broken and our souls empty…starved for hope.
It’s been said that a person can live forty days without food, even four days without water, and four minutes without air, but only four seconds without hope. Hope provides the power to keep us going during our most difficult times. Hope, the expectation of future good, is the fuel that propels us past momentary setbacks and keeps us moving in the direction of our potential.
When Britain’s legendary leader Winston Churchill was asked what his country’s greatest weapon had been against Hitler’s Nazi regime during World War II, he didn’t hesitate for a moment. He promptly replied, “It was what England’s greatest weapon has always been – hope.”
Hope took England through many dark times during World War II. It can do the same for us today.
Carol and the Power of Hope
Remember some time in your life when somebody or something gave you hope. How did it feel? Did it energize you? Did it revitalize you? Did it provide you just the burst of belief in better endings you need to keep trying when quitting seemed the only logical choice? I know hope has done so for me.
During one particular challenging time in my life, when everything I cherished seemed so very close to slipping away, I momentarily lost hope. At a time when I needed to tap a reservoir of deeper inner strength, focus and faith to get me moving in a better direction, I found myself being overwhelmed with fear and frustration. Unsure where to turn to try and turn things around, hope seemed lost. Then, just like that, when things seemed at their darkest, one person came into my life who helped me find my way.
Her name was Carol and she helped me rediscover the power of hope.
Carol’s encouragement, enthusiasm and belief in me provided the glimmer of possibility needed to see through the chaos and uncertainty of my momentary situation. Her optimism infused me with the courage and confidence needed to lean into my circumstances instead of shrink back from them. And my life has never been the same ever since.
There is no reason why each of us can’t be like Carol and be a messenger of hope to others. Every day we encounter dozens of opportunities to lend a caring and compassionate ear to hear someone else’s struggles; or provide a kind word of encouragement or a brief but sincere compliment to someone in our sphere of influence.
It doesn’t matter what role you are playing, co-worker, parent, friend, teacher, supervisor, team member, son, daughter, brother, sister, or neighbor, each of us can choose to oxygenate our surroundings with hope.
One more thing about Carol, my personal purveyor of hope in life’s toughest season. At the time she reached out to help, she was facing serious struggles of her own. In fact, despite having a young baby, an adoring family and a flourishing faith, she was dying from cancer. At a time when it would be understandable for her to spend her last precious days being fearful or frustrated about her future, she radiated peace, joy and above all, hope. With the final hours of her life slipping away, she choose to demonstrate by her attitudes and actions her unwavering belief that:
Hope can sustain you;
Hope can refresh you; and,
Hope can restore you;
“Resolve to start a one-person hope epidemic right where you are.”
Don’t wait for a crisis in your own life to learn the invaluable life lesson Carol taught me. Namely, hope is to your soul, what oxygen is to your body. Hope provides us the strength to stand tall after we’ve taken a fall; it enables us to trust when we are told waiting is a must; and it allows us to endure when circumstances around us seem so very unsure.
Resolve to start a one-person hope epidemic right where you are.
You never know whose life you might just change.