Faith gives us Hope:

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At the moment we learn the unthinkable has happened, in that moment, the shock, the pain, and the anguish we naturally feel are capable of overwhelming all that we are. Yet, as the great Evangelist Billy Graham stated, “God’s mercy and grace give me hope – for myself, and for our world”. It is God’s promise of hope that has given me the strength to endure the difficult times and overcome the anguish. This is why I know more now than I did when it happened, why a police psychologist saw the need for me to represent to a grieving family that there was still hope (see “Responding to the Call“). In Jeremiah 29:11 the Lord declares, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.[1] Life has shown me that God did still had plans for a future for me. As I look back at the plans God still had for me, I have come to realize that “hope” may be the greatest gift God gives us.

When I think of faith and hope, I often remember the of Dennis Byrd[2]. Byrd was a NFL defensive lineman that was paralyzed playing football. He relied of his faith, hope, and the love of his wife and family to recover from a catastrophic neck injury. Although the hit had shattered a vertebrae in his neck and left him paralyzed from the neck down, Byrd refused to quit. He worked relentlessly day after day through excruciating physical therapy with an exhausting passion and determination to recover. Beating all the odds, Byrd was able to recover and walk. [3]

“A man has a body, a mind and a spirit. There are times in a man’s life when his body tells him it can’t continue on. Where his mind will tell him that the task set for him is too hard for him to accomplish. Those two don’t matter. It’s a man’s will, a man’s spirit that will tell him you can do this! It will make the mind and the body follow along.” – Dennis Byrd

It has always been my belief that our instincts are given to us by God, particularly our survival instincts. In her review of The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages by Ruth Davis Konigsberg, Margarita Tartakovsky M.S. explains that in her book Konigsberg discusses how Kübler-Ross’s five stages (and books on grief in general) erroneously show a hopeless road, making people think that they must grieve for the rest of their lives. To the contrary, Konigsberg writes that, according to research, “Loss is forever, but acute grief is not, a distinction that frequently gets blurred.” In addition, Tartakovsky points out how Konigsberg reveals that the latest research, positive emotions play a pivotal role in helping people deal with loss. Koenigsberg writes in the Afterword:

“Perhaps just the knowledge that our survival instinct is strong, and that a great many have not only endured terrible losses but have also thrived, can be a source of hope, something that I found to be quite scarce in our grief culture.”[4]

The importance of faith in God, and the hope it can give a person that has experienced tragedy and/or a traumatic event has been confirmed by research time and time again. It is this faith in a power greater than ourselves that gives us the confidence “in the things we hope for” which allows us “to be certain of the things we cannot see“. One example of this can be found in research conducted by Dr. Donald Meichenbaum[5] which concluded the positive affect a persons faith has on the ability of a person to successfully cope with the trauma when it occurs in their lives:

“Offer a degree of closure on a painful period and encourage transition behaviors to engage in new adaptive activities and nurture hope. As Snyder (2002) observes: there is a need to nurture hope and optimism that leads to engaging in goal- directed behaviors and embracing positive strivings and visions. Encourage access to inner strengths, empowerment, control and acceptance. One’s faith conveys hope and sense of mastery. The people can have some control over their lives, hope that they can find a way to give their experience some meaning, and hope that in spite of tragic events, life is not over and can improve.”[6]

In 1959 The Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet to Dharamsala, northern India, due to the brutal suppression of his country by Chinese troops. Nonetheless, he has never given up hope to return to Tibet and has become an icon of peace and tolerance. According to The Dalai Lama, there is a Tibetan saying that “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.” The Dalai Lama explained that, “No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.

According to the priest Martin Luther (1483-1546), who would be a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation, “Everything that is done in this world is done by hope”. Helen Keller (1880-1968) was able to overcome going both deaf and blind to becoming the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and would become and author and social advocate and she famously claimed “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” Actor director Christopher Reeve (1952-2004) overcame an accident that left him a quadriplegic and claimed “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” So many more people who overcame a wide spectrum of difficulties would agree with what is taught in the Bible, the importance of hope to get us through difficult times.

Later in my life when I came face to face with a career ending back injury that surgery failed to relieve me of chronic pain, I would again appreciate the importance hope held to get us through difficult times. God wants us to have hope, which is why the Apostle Paul asserts in Romans 15:4, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.[7] Similarly, the Apostle Paul professes in Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.[8] Likewise, the Apostle Paul advocates in Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.[9]

This is the hope I rely on today. No matter what happens to me, regardless of how severe the pain may become, how frustrating the side effects and the other symptoms, I know that God is with me. I was once asked by a supervisor why I did not just give in. My answer seemed so simple to me, to give in was to give up hope and I had to have hope! At times, hope is all you have, and if you give up hope, nothing great could happen. I might never recover, I might not be able to do anything to change that, but I did have a choice, and it would never be my choice to give up hope! It is this hope that I hope everyone can find, the hope of a survivor.

[1] New International Version (NIV).

[2] Dennis DeWayne Byrd played in the NFL four years for the New York prior to his injury in 1992. He is a devout Christian and lives in Tulsa with his wife and their four children.

[3] Byrd, Dennis, and Michael D’Orso. “Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd”. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

[4] Konigsberg, Ruth Davis. 2011. The Truth About Grief. New York: Simon & Schuster. (p. 197)

[5] Dr. Donald Meichenbaum, PhD, is a Professor Emeritus, University of Waterloo Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; Research Director of The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment Miami, Florida; and has authored several books about post-traumatic stress.

[6] Trauma, Spirituality and Recovery, Toward a Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy by Donald Meichenbaum.

[7] New International Version (NIV).

[8] English Standard Version (ESV).

[9] English Standard Version (ESV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
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