How do we still hope when all earthly reason for hope is gone? Beverly Draper reflects on why self-reliance and positive-thinking can only take you so far.
There have been many occasions when I have been confronted with situations where people have lost hope. As a medical doctor, most often it has been in the context of an incurable disease and certain death. Paul was in his thirties when he was referred to the oncology clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital where I was working. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer but the doctors told him that he should not worry; the specialists would be able to treat it. He arrived in a very positive frame of mind and after the first round of chemotherapy, he did really well and resumed work. But a few weeks later, he started to get sick again and at his follow up visit it was obvious on his X-Ray that the tumour in his lung was growing and was now larger than ever and was spreading to other parts of his body.He was devastated because he believed that he had come to oncology for a cure.
One afternoon, he called me and asked me to come to his home in Pinelands. I arrived to find a man broken and confused. He asked me to level with him, knowing that I was a Christ-follower and that I would speak the truth. I told him that short of a miracle, he was certainly going to die in the not too distant future. I watched as Paul slowly moved his focus of hope from a medical cure and restoration of his physical health to hope of eternal life in Christ. He was able to find peace and place himself and his family in God’s hands, no matter whether he lived or died.
People who are self-reliant believe that their own talent, intellect, resources and connections provide hope for a future that holds the same or even better friends and family, education and the security of material possessions. In other words, they place their hope in things that make them ‘happy’. It is a hope that is earned rather than given. Many believe that a code of morality will bring security, or having a positive attitude will bring good things. Hope is placed in doctors, teachers, housing officials, employers or even government authorities to improve circumstances. Often this may happen – people get cured, promoted, receive bursaries or get paid out what is due to them. But where does one go when all hope is gone?