“Surely if you have accepted a situation, you have ceased hoping?” – often, this is the unspoken question which causes people to hold on to denial about their situation. Are acceptance and hope really opposites though? I think that actually, it is only through acceptance that you can truly find hope.
When I say “hope”, I say it in the Biblical sense of the word, the sense of believing in something that can and will happen; not idle wishes. Something that can truly be held on to. Idle wishes may be fun, but we can’t place our trust in them and rely on them as a source of comfort. Hope however, is looking forward to that which we may not have, but know we can one day attain.
I think there are two things to hope in that are important, for those suffering. The first is this – hope that these hard times will pass. For those with a chronic illness, this could mean many things: the most obvious is hope of full recovery. But, I do not mean that to be the only hope one could have of things getting better – we know that most people with chronic illness don’t recover!
What else than, can we hope in, for things getting better? For those with a stable illness, there is the hope that we learn to manage it better, that the medications we are starting on can make life a bit easier, that getting care will enable us to do many things we can’t on our own.
Lastly, there is the hope that some of us have in a better life beyond death; in the end of suffering and pain. We know that illness will pass away, and end, and that it will not always be this way. For those who’s illness continues to progress, this is perhaps the only hope of improvement left. I don’t mean to say this in a “give up and die” sense, not at all – but in a “keep on going; one day it will be better”. Christians may feel wrong in hoping in death, but even Paul says that he wants to depart from the present suffering to be with God (Phil 1:21-24). We are encouraged in the Bible to hope for Christ’s return, and to hope in new life – it is not a sin to look forward to these things.
Life is also about more than improvement, and that brings me to the other thing to hope in – the hope of good things now. Even in suffering, there are good things, and focusing on them, being thankful for them, enriches our lives even in the midst of suffering. I am not saying to ignore bad things and “think positive”, but to acknowledge both the good and bad, and be thankful for the things that make our lives more enjoyable.
I have hope that going through illness will shape me into being a better person – even if the illness does not come to an end, there are good things from it. I have hope that what I write might encourage or teach others, even if I write it from a place of pain. I have hope that I will enjoy time with my friends. I have hope in my relationship with my husband, which brings great happiness to me, and hope in watching my kitten grow and play.
No matter how dark it is, there is always something bright to hold on to (although we might have to be inventive about it). It makes suffering more bearable, and coping become possible. Losing hope is what causes us to give up – living with it can keep us going, and what’s more, enable us to find happiness in the midst of calamity.