George Louw explains why hope in a time of panic and fear is so important and where he puts his hope
We live in times of doubt. COVID-19 has moved the whole world out of its comfort zone, and we do not know what the future holds. We are concerned. We are afraid. In some instances, we are without hope. For many of us, the virus has become a lesser concern: My sources of income are drying up. How am I going to pay my caregiver? What do I have to eat today? My loved ones are suffering and I can do nothing about it.
Take heart. Doubt is the fertile ground from which hope germinates. Helen Keller once said of optimism: “It let’s us into the soul of things and teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it”. She could just as well have said this of hope.
Without a doubt, all that remains is certainty. And certainty is rigid. It does not allow for hope because it is what it is. It cannot change. But the moment we doubt, we also start hoping. And when we hope we become creative. The most creative times in the world were times of great hardship. If everything is hunky-dory, we relax.
When we are threatened, when we are rattled out of our comfort zones, when we say in doubt and despair “how can this be?”, it just takes a shift of mind to say, “this cannot be”. And that is the point when hope germinates in the soil of doubt. That is when hope generates a new focus of creativity, of resilience, of perseverance.
“The moment we doubt, we also start hoping. And when we hope we become creative.”
Hope against all odds. Hope even when there appears to be no hope like a tree that grows from a crack in a cliff. But there is a caveat: What is the foundation of our hope? On what or on whom do we base our hope? Because hope can be misplaced, it can be irrational, it can be false. Hope can be selfish. It can disappoint. Then doubt sets in.
When doubt is constructive, it urges us to question the basis of our hope. It urges us to search for a new foundation on which to build our hope. Hope is the very essence of our survival. Without hope, we wither and die. Yet, inspirational hope allows us to soar above ourselves, to become a source of inspiration to others. To become the architect and the chief executive of the realisation of our hope.
So, this brings me to the true essence of hope. It isn’t an emotion. It is an action – a driving force that motivates me to achieve what I am hoping for. Thus, hope is so creative, but also why misplaced hope is so dangerous. Hence, the basis of our hope is fundamental.
We can base our hope on the evidence of history: The Plague of 1346 to 1353 came and went, smallpox came and went, the Spanish flu came and went. History is a consolation, but not without consequences. All three of those pandemics killed millions before they went. So, history tells us that COVID-19 too will pass. But at what cost? Is history a good foundation on which to base our hopes for today? I think not.
Could we base our hope on immunity? On the development of a vaccine, or on herd immunity? Certainly, but again, at what cost? Do we ignore the virus and place our hope on the restoration of the economy so that at least we can eat while we wait to fall ill? Yes, we can but again, at what cost? So, it becomes apparent that we cannot base our hopes on things or events. They are bound to disappoint.
What then is the true foundation of hope? For me, it is the knowledge that our Creator empowers us. He blesses us so that we can go out and be a blessing to others in times of need. To become extensions of His grace. This is our true function in life. It is also the one function that we fail in dismally, but that is where forgiveness kicks in.
There is no greater service than to be extensions of the grace of God. There is no greater hope than to be good stewards of God’s grace. But there is one hurdle to overcome. To illustrate this, let me share a fable from India that I came across recently.
The spirit of the plague passed an old man sitting under a tree.
Old man: “Where are you going?”
Spirit: “To Benares, to kill 100 people.”
Later, the old man heard that, in Benares, 10 000 had died.
Then, the spirit of the plague passed again on his return journey.
Old man: “You lied. You said you would kill 100.”
Spirit: “I killed 100. FEAR killed the rest.”
The hurdle to overcome is fear. To serve in the grace of God is to serve with love. There is no place for fear. So, let us place our hope in our Creator in the knowledge that COVID-19 too, will eventually pass.
Disclaimer: ROLLING INSPIRATION does not promote or support any specific religious belief. The views expressed in this article is that of the author.
Ida’s Corner is a regular column by George Louw, who qualified as a medical doctor, but, due to a progressing spastic paralysis, chose a career in health administration. The column is named after Ida Hlongwa, who worked as caregiver for Ari Seirlis for 20 years. Her charm, smile, commitment, quality care and sacrifice set the bar incredibly high for the caregiving fraternity.