[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jared Oberkirsch is in the home stretch of completing his training in family medicine. He lives in Regina with his beautiful wife, Haleigh, and together they battle the craziness of life; feeling as though they were never properly advised about this adulthood business. 🙂]
Words make more sense to me when they are compared with their opposites. To better understand hope, it’s helpful for me to consider hopelessness.
In this little experiment, the first word that pops into my mind is depression. Depression is a big expansive word that can mean many different things to many different people. Depressions are low points. They manifest as economic recessions and downturns where money and financial securities are suddenly lost in a puff of smoke. Depressions are the sunken places in nature – the hollows of forests and valleys of mountain ranges. They are indentations in wood furniture and footprints along the beach.
Depression also refers to sadness. We use this word to describe our mood all the time. It’s a word that rolls off our tongues all too freely and we can miss its darker undertones. In truth, depression is stone cold. It’s this crippling darkness that steals the joy from our eyes and the smiles from our faces. Depression is pounding waves – over and over – that erodes the stable places where we feel safe. At its worst, a depression can convince us that our only option is to just jump in to those waters and be swept away entirely.
Tough stuff. But this is real life for some of us.
There are two simple questions that I often ask people who pass through my office. These questions are just part of my routine. They have to be because if I don’t ask, some people would just hide behind forced smiles and small talk. Usually I open with, “And how has your mood been recently? If you consider the past two weeks, have you had:
1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things that you usually enjoy?
…or have you been…
2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?”
There it is – hopeless – right in front of me. One of the most common barriers to mental wellness is this state of being without hope.
Proverbs 13:12 reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” That’s not really surprising is it? Those who cannot find hope experience suffering. Whether you see it on the news or in the stranger you pass on your way to work, suffering is all around us. This world is broken. Hopelessness is all around us.
But take heart, friends. Hebrews 6 describes hope as, “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” It’s a beautiful metaphor. Everyday the world washes over us – wave after wave – trying to catch us off balance and sweep us away, but our hope keeps us secure.
Hope is that feeling that drives away the darkness. Hope gives courage when all our previous efforts have failed. Hope lifts our downcast eyes and fixes them on our Saviour – the one who has already conquered the night.
“Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear.” [President Snow, The Hunger Games].