Hope and life are linked together. Theologian Emil Brunner wrote, “What oxygen is for the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of human life. Take oxygen away and death occurs through suffocation; take hope away and humanity is constricted through lack of breath; despair supervenes, spelling the paralysis of intellectual and spiritual powers by a feeling of senselessness and purposelessness of existence. As the fate of the human organism is dependent on the supply of oxygen, so the fate of humanity is dependent on its supply of hope.”
Cicero gave us the well-known proverb, “While there’s life, there’s hope.” Was he right? A few years ago the psychology department of Duke University conducted an interesting experiment. They wanted to see how long rats could swim. In one container the experimenters placed a rat for which there was no possibility of escape. He swam a few minutes and then ducked his head to drown. In the other container, they made the hope of escape possible for that rat. The rat swam for several hours before finally drowning. The conclusion of the experiment was just the opposite of Cicero’s statement, “While there’s life, there’s hope.” The Duke experiment proved, “While there’s hope, there’s life.”
Hope is the Christian virtue that anticipates something good will happen or expects the best to come. Hope brings life. While faith belongs more to the intellectual and love to the emotions, hope concerns itself with the will. Hope is medicinal. Hope is that vivacious virtue that can transform despair, defeat, and death, knowing that there are no hopeless situations there are simply people who have grown hopeless about them. As Stephen King’s character in Shawshank Redemption, Andy McFrane, writes in a letter to his friend Red, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”
Your situation may appear bad, hopeless in fact. Your job may be slipping away. You may be wondering where you are going to get the money for the Christmas presents this year. Your marriage may be unraveling. Your children may be causing you to pull your hair out. Or, any of a number of things that may be causing you to ask, “Why go on with life?” Let me remind you of the words of social critic, Richard John Neuhaus: “The times may be bad, but they are the only times we are given. Remember, hope is still a Christian virtue, and despair is a mortal sin.”
Hope, indeed, is a good thing.