By Kate Prado
From my office window I can see the Appalachian Mountains off in the distance. It is March, but there is still snow on the ground here in Western, Maryland, and white patches can be seen in places atop the dark hills covered in a frosty morning mist. If I were living in this spot a hundred years ago, without all of the conveniences, would I begin to loose all hope of ever seeing spring again?
Our assurance, when cold cloaks the body and chills the bones, is in just one word...hope. We live in a part of the world where there are four seasons and spring has always followed winter. My whole lifetime I have never worried about spring not showing up. We may not be able to say exactly when the last of the snow will be off the ground, but we are certain the warm weather will arrive. Our confidence is not in man, but in the patterns the earth and the heavens around it, have always followed.
Can we be so certain about the seasons of our lives, as we are about the seasons set by nature? When sadness, sickness or dark days become too cold for us to bear, what hope can we possibly have? Without throwing out a false line, for those drowning in the challenges life can send, how do you comfort the hopeless spirit?
My older sister, Rosemary, taught me my greatest lesson about hope. I was going through a long illness and felt I couldn't face another day in life. Like seasoned sailors in a terrible storm, who don't waste their breath yelling for the fury to cease, she told me to keep going during the trials. If you are sick, do what you can until you feel better. If the doctors tell you the situation will not improve, do something anyway. Go the journey broken if you have to, but keep going. At times you may need to stop and cry, but get back up and somehow continue on.
A ship's crew does not quit and throw themselves into the raging sea when it becomes too rough, because they understand even the worst of any storms must eventually come to an end. Catastrophes often have casualties, but there are always those who survive and conquer, when conquest appears impossible.
Like a sailor who is confident he is in a seaworthy vessel, my sister is grounded by her faith. She puts all of her trust in God's promise, which says, He will never leave us or forsake us, no matter how tumultuous the tempest we are facing.
I have two favorite scriptures about "hope." The first is found in Hebrews 6:19. "Which hope we have an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast..." The second one reminds me of Rosemary and I try to share it with others who have become discouraged. It is in I Peter 3:15. "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you..."
Finding hope is not just about us. Hope is the rope we throw to others in the storms we all face at one time or another. It is about us pulling a drowning soul from icy waters and taking them to the safety of the shore. Hope fills the lungs of the lost when they cannot catch a breath. Many do not realize the hope they hold in their own hands, until they extend it to someone else. We increase our own hope when we share it with those around us.
Breathe hope, even when the salty sea is up to your neck and no rescue ship is in sight. You may wake up one day, after treading water for what seems like an eternity, and find yourself lifted up when least expected. It is then you will understand how hope is no different from waiting for spring or the lesson I learned from my sister. It is about being steadfast in faith, anchored in God's promises, until the storm ceases and calmness returns once more.