Food for thought,  Stroll with Nicole

Hope: the undervalued virtue

Nicole Law takes an end of year look at the real meaning of hope.

Reading a Christmas card from a close friend recently, I noticed her last sentence:

“I hope the new year holds much joy, love and peace for you.”

The word ‘hope’ stood out to me. I’ve both witnessed and experienced the fragility associated with hope. 

We hold certain desires for a particular thing to happen in our lives – a new job, a healed family, a new opportunity… ‘Hopes’. If we feel brave enough, we utter them aloud. We share these hopes with close friends. 

At other times, we fear the fragility of our hope, treating these desires as glass baubles which might shatter if we hold them too tightly. The fear that our hopes will be dashed and that we will need to sit with our disappointment gnaws away at our spirit. 

The one thing I’ve re-learned this year is that having hope is itself something to be cherished. 

It is much easier to detach ourselves completely from our desires, to suppress them or to place them in cold storage. Much of the disappointment we feel arises when we attach a specific form and timeline to the realisation of our hopes. 

We bemoan the interminable waiting period or the less than ideal realities we are confronted with. When a door closes in our face, when the person we care about stands up and walks away, or when we find ourselves on the outside looking in, hope appears to slip away, like an eel escaping from our hands. 

Yet if we were to look at the world through the lens of loss, hope is a very audacious concept. How can one hope in the face of desolation, hunger and pain? How can one speak about hope in the same breath as suffering? 

At certain points this year, I have avoided the word altogether in a bid to avoid getting my hopes up. But that’s the whole idea, isn’t it? 

Hope by its very nature points upwards. 

It uplifts the spirit beyond the surface level capacities we need to simply ‘survive’. It directs our gaze to something that is out of reach. 

We don’t hope to reach low hanging fruits. Those are the necessary rewards of our labour. 

Yes, we worked hard this year and should get recognised for it. Yes, we have tried to be good children this year and our family should be pleased with our efforts. But there’s more than these simple satisfactions in the concept of hope.

There is an unseen quality about hope that I’ve learned to appreciate. St Paul in a Bible epistle reminded me that ‘we hope in what is unseen’. Though we don’t know the how and why of the realisation of our hopes, we know there is fruit to be found on the upper branches, just beyond our reach at present but waiting for us to grasp it. 

 

Is the key to hope, then, not so much the fruit itself, but the endurance that comes with it? That would be overstating the case. But we could say that the fruit is the growth which comes through endurance.

To hope is not to be trapped in wishful thinking or to fantasise about a possibility in the future. To hope is to endure the present struggle and discomfort knowing that eventually we will piece together the disparate pieces to make sense of the whole. 

Certainly, religious faith fosters hope. Knowing there is a loving, all-powerful God who can carry out his good purpose in spite of and even through human evil and weakness gives great grounds for hope. That even our failures are allowed by him as part of his plan for our fulfilment is such a hopeful thought.

As the year draws to a close, I hope you will take a closer look at the hope you hold close to your heart. I hope you will continue to be hopeful. I hope you will not give in to despair and resentment. 

I hope you will continue to hope for the coming year. 

Like what you’ve read? Consider supporting the work of Adamah by making a donation and help us keep exploring life’s big (and not so big) issues!

 

Nicole Law is a writer for Adamah Media, who writes a column entitled 'Stroll with Nicole'. She is an educator based in sunny Singapore. Her calling is not only to mould young minds, but also to nourish souls through her faith-based podcast. She has a soft spot for burnt cheesecake, Dean Martin and swing dance. When she’s not engaging with her listeners, she’s planning new conversations for her podcast - she believes in the power of conversations and the beauty of our relationships.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *