The Pain Of Hope

I used to think hope felt good, that no problems in my life could make me feel overwhelmed, as long as I had hope. In my mind, the word “hope” conjured up sunrises and inspiring soundtracks (e.g. the “Free Willie” theme). Now that I have had to rely on it a few times in my life, I am starting to wonder how good it actually feels.

There have been times in my life when for weeks I did not want to get out of bed. I have felt useless and worthless. At times, I have felt that all my efforts were futile. It is a hard feeling to be 23, living at home and going through my first year of university. I look at the peers I have in my age group, many are married, finished their degrees and working good jobs.

It is easy at this point to give up. It is easy to tell my self that I will never succeed in school, so there is no point in going. Thoughts like these suppress motivation. Lack of motivation suppresses personal achievement. Lack of personal achievement feeds feelings of failure, which in turn suppress motivation, and the cycle begins again.

The symptoms of depression are rarely feelings of sadness. They are more often a lack of emotion altogether, and a lack of motivation. Depression is a feeling of numbness and indifference to the world at large, and indifference to personal circumstances.

The prophet Elijah knew these feelings well. First Kings tells how after he achieved great miracles for God and turned Israel away from the worship of Baal, the tables turned viciously upon him. The queen of Israel put out a warrant for his death.

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life…He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord ,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” (1 Kings 19:3-5)

One of the most painful things in the world is the will to live. The fact that there is a chance of success is a truth that many people do not want to hear. Hope is not a feeling of happiness; it is an awful feeling that compels us to survive. It is the knowledge that we must fight back against adversity. It is the choice to breathe through water-filled lungs. It is the refusal to die.

Elijah, get up and eat.

Dying is comfortable. Living is painful. We are not granted the luxury of death, but we are forced into life, life abundantly.

In the French movie trilogy Three Colors: Blue, Juliette Binoche plays the wife of a prominent composer. In one scene, after her husband and daughter have died in a car crash, she steals painkillers from a hospital in an attempt to kill herself. She sits down as the drugs begin to work on her. Suddenly she gets up, runs to the sink and gags herself in order to throw up the pills.

The hardest choice is the choice to live. The truth that hurts the most is the truth that we can have a second chance at life. The most healing ointment, grace, is the medicine that stings us most.

To this day, the scene plays frequently in my mind; the woman stands in front of the sink, puking and weeping.

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That’s hope.

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