That one little word can make such a dynamic difference in our lives. Without it, we not only accept, but embrace defeat, depression, discouragement. We walk around in a storm cloud of overwhelming negative emotions, dark feelings, eternal night. With it, we overcome obstacles, power through setbacks and dismiss the very notion of defeat; we rise to heights that go beyond our natural limitations and achieve greatness.
As a child, I had incredible hopes and dreams that consumed me nearly every day until the world I lived in slowly eroded their very foundations.
And then, sometime in my teenage years, I lost hope altogether. It didn’t leave with a bang, but more like sand slipping through my fingers, until I was holding on to nothing.
The hole that created in me pulled in any sense of self worth, until there was none left. Without hope, I felt worthless. That led to a decade and a half of self-destructive behavior; smoking, drinking, violence, shattered relationships, emotional pain easily accepted and zealously inflicted. I had no hope, no way to see light at the end of the tunnel, no real reason to live.
Then, something odd happened. A friend, and well respected comic creator, began sharing his faith with me, one tiny tidbit at a time. At first, I didn’t get it; in fact, I made fun of him for it as I had ridiculed the dozen or so others who had tried to show me the light over the course of my young life. But, one day, a switch flipped inside me when I asked him “What exactly do you get out of this whole faith thing?”
His answer: “Hope”
That single word encompassed one of the shortest, simplest answers anyone could give when judged in its brevity, but in its simplicity it was paradigm shifting and life altering.
Looking back over my life to that point, I could see where hope had left and that happened to be exactly when the lights went out. Sure I made a lot of friends in those years, some the best I’ve ever had, but I’d bet if you went and asked most of the people I interacted with from the mid-teens to late twenties, the majority would tell you I was a total jerk – or worse.
That’s what a lack of hope does to you.
Thankfully, that one friend thought enough of me to offer me insight into why I needed hope and how I could get it, and what it did for him, a guy who has struggled with clinical depression his whole life but overcomes it with hope.
Soon after, it was like I’d awoken from a nearly two decade long dream where I was continually drowning. Life became worth living again, and it showed in my work. As hope regained its true place in my heart, I started noticing a change in the letters and emails I received from fans, talking about how my work had made such a positive impact on their lives. The fan mail I’d received prior never talked in such terms, it was basic adoration for the work itself, and never once spoke in terms of spiritual aesthetics. And how could it? It never had hope before.
Hope also did wonders for my marriage, simply because you cannot have real love without hope. With this realization, I discovered I was incapable of truly loving my wife without hope in my heart. But, once I embraced it, we stopped fighting like two spoiled children, and as this lost ingredient mixed its way through our relational recipe, we truly became one, just like we’d vowed to do on our wedding day.
At its essence, hope pushed out the darkness and not only became a light at the end of the tunnel, but turned the tunnel itself into a distant memory.
I had gone from the walking death of a hopeless life, to living alive.
That’s what faith did for me.
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.