Bad times happen to us all. There are circumstances that will break our heart. It may be a betrayal of a spouse or a work colleague; it may be the death of one we love; it may be a financial disaster that leaves us without the means of support; it may be the disappointment of not achieving our dreams; it may be the regret we feel at the pain we have caused others. It is when our world caves in that we need something to hold onto to get us through the chaos. It is during seasons of pain or suffering or misfortune that we need hope. It is during such times that the seed of hope germinates and bursts forth into new life.
In his book Four Fires, Bryce Courtenay uses the character, Tommy, to discuss how eucalypt trees safeguard their future. Tommy says,
“That’s the amazing part, the little seed capsules grow high enough up in the forest canopy so the seeds inside them aren’t scorched by the radiant heat from the bushfire passing underneath. The heat generated is sufficient to open them after the fire has passed to allow the seed to rain down onto the newly burnt forest floor. Here’s the extra smart bit, the warmth of the soil from the spent fire will stimulate the germination of the seed and seedlings will rapidly push their roots down through the nutrient-rich ash.”
Adversity has a way of determining whether our hope has any substance. False hope withers away when exposed to the intense heat of scrutiny. False hope lacks grit, the ability to endure.
Genuine hope can survive severe examination. It flourishes when put to the test. Genuine hope understands that re-evaluation and refinement are a necessary part of the process. Richard Paul Evans says, “It is a great human need to be periodically reborn.” We could say, “It is a great human need to have our hopes reborn.” Times of adversity allow for this to happen.
Often our hopes are shallow, lacking the strength of conviction. It is during times of adversity that we see with greater clarity, knowing that what we need is a bold hope, able to triumph in any circumstance. Rebecca Solnit recognises that hope can be the means of our survival. She says, “Hope is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.”
Genuine hope is robust and can withstand rigorous handling. I watched a documentary recently in which old Stradivarius violins, crafted during the early 1700’s, with a price tag in the millions, were removed from their secure glass cabinets and offered to gifted musicians to create beautiful music. There was an element of risk, the instruments could be damaged or even stolen, but the rewards were so breathtaking and inspiring it was worth it. And so it is with hope. Hope ceases to be relevant if we lock it away in a vault and only bring it out on special occasions.
Genuine hope is real, a torch we carry into the night. Genuine hope gives us the assurance that we are not forever boxed in, denied a way of escape. Genuine hope is like a deluge. It re-energises a flagging spirit and saturates us with possibility.
But what can we say of the good times? Are our hopes somewhat superfluous? When our lives are on a roll and everything has a positive vibe we would do well to hold on to our hope, to nurture our hope, to understand the nature of our hope. Our previous life experience teaches us that our hopes can be crushed, particularly when the darkness returns.