A friend called me recently with bleak news. She had received an unfavorable medical diagnosis, and, on top of that, her marriage was in trouble. Like a climber losing hold on a slippery bank, she was grasping for hope.
I did the only thing that came to me, which was to assure her with as much conviction as I could that God's love was holding her and would not fail.
Then she said, "May I ask you a personal question?" She wanted to know how I got my conviction and whether I'd seen great examples of God's power in my life. The Bible says to be always ready to answer anyone who asks you the reason for your hope (see I Pet. 3:15). And it was on the tip of my tongue to say that I'd seen remarkable recoveries from serious illness through prayer, as well as cases of better relationships restored.
But something made me pause, and a different answer came out. I told her that preserving hope is something I have to work at every day, and that affirming God's power and goodness often - even when things look bleak - helps me feel more hopeful and convinced of it.
Hearing about all kinds of problems resolved through prayer has been a tremendous source of hope for me over the years. Still, it's only human to wonder sometimes whether I will find help in some particular trouble. The doubts come. Maybe I'm not good enough to deserve God's help. What about people who have prayed and apparently not been delivered?
In a current documentary about Israeli and Palestinian children, the camera catches a poignant moment when two Jewish boys ask their grandfather, a holocaust survivor, whether he believes in God. He stares silently and makes no reply.
Examples of good experiences don't always give hope that every trouble will be solved. Maybe that's why I answered my friend's question the way I did that day. Yet hope is vital to moving forward in life. It's important, then, to know that hope can arise even without specific experiences to inspire it. Simple unselfish love can give rise to hope.
There's a wonderful example of love-inspired hope in the story of Molly Craig and Daisy Craig Kadibil, Australian Aborigines, who were among thousands of half-caste children forcibly removed from their families over many decades in the 20th century.
The two sisters, aged 14 and 8, escaped their prison-school in 1931 and walked over 1,500 desolate miles back to their home. (Their cousin Gracie began the journey with them but was recaptured.) Hunted by the government throughout their nine-week journey, they constantly hid their tracks and scavenged for meager food. They don't mention being inspired by other successful escapes, although they knew about failed attempts. As I watched the film version of the story, "Rabbit-Proof Fence," it occurred to me that Molly's hope and courage sprang in part from the need to encourage the younger Daisy. Although exhausted herself, Molly often carried Daisy on her back. Love evidently carried Molly.
Encouraging someone else can be a powerful way to recapture your own hope. It doesn't even have to be someone you know. Prayer on behalf of sick or imprisoned or oppressed people the world over, for example, can affirm that God is Love and is the infinite and only power. This divine and good Spirit is the source and substance of all that exists, so creation must actually be spiritual and indestructible. God's creatures are in permanent loving relationship with the All-power that provides, the All- wisdom that guides, the All-presence that comforts.
Keeping truths like these in mind nourishes hope because it helps us realize that evil is not a fact of life but the result of misunderstanding it. In her textbook on Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "We must learn that evil is the awful deception and unreality of existence. Evil is not supreme; good is not helpless; nor are the so-called laws of matter primary, and the law of Spirit secondary. Without this lesson, we lose sight of the perfect Father, or the divine Principle of man" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 207).
To grasp that any evil circumstance we find ourselves in is not the reality or power it appears to be stimulates hope and energy to overcome evil.