Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“Hope,” said Thales, the Greek founder of philosophy, “is the most universal thing in the world, for hope stays with those who have nothing else.”
Many today are in the grip of despair and pessimism because they have ruled out the very grounds of hope itself, which is God. The believer’s hope centers in a person, Jesus Christ, who gave to us a hope of eternal life and the assurance that there is more to life than the weary monotony of earning enough money to keep ourselves from starving and out of the rain. Hope stems from faith, and it is to the soul of man what oxygen is to his lungs and food to his body. Apart from hope there is no reason to live.
Dr. Karl Menninger, the renowned psychiatrist, was intrigued by the place of hope in our lives and its importance as a factor which leads to physical recovery and healing. He said that much attention has been given to faith and love. Yet as a psychiatrist, he was firmly convinced of the importance of hope.
A professor of medicine at Cornell University, Dr. Harold G. Wolff, did an intensive study of the factors that led to survival for those who were interred in the concentration camps of World War 2. In an article entitled, “What Hope Does For Man,” Dr. Wolff wrote the following: “A study of a few of the survivors who have since become unusually effective citizens is suggestive. Despite exposure to many stressful conditions, the imprisonment for them was a painful but temporary interruption in a life viewed as a continuum. They were convinced that they would come out alive and that they would not be imprisoned long.
“These men formed tightly knit groups, believed in and helped each other, and even laughed together. Immediately after liberation, a few had transient illnesses but there is little to indicate that their vitality had been sapped. Indeed, a few assumed major responsibilities. In short, prolonged circumstances which are perceived as dangerous and lonely may drain a man of hope and health; but he is capable of enduring incredible burdens and taking cruel punishment when he has self‑esteem, hope, purpose and belief in his fellows.”
Another doctor who made an intensive study of hope in relationship to suffering in the concentration camps of World War 2 was Viktor Frankl. Unlike Dr. Wolff, who studied the problem as a scientific observer, Dr. Frankl studied the subject as a participant. Dr. Viktor Frankl was a Jewish doctor who studied the concentration camps from within as a prisoner. Dr. Frankl saw hope as an unconquerable link to the God of the future, part of the indomitable spirit of man that could never be destroyed from without.
When Dr. Frankyl wrote of his experiences and the importance of hope as a means and factor in survival, he concluded his book with these words, “…we have come to know man as that being who has invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who has entered those gas chambers upright with the Lord’s prayer or the Schema Yisroel on his lips.”
Hope is part of the armor of the soul which is put there by God and is linked vitally to the belief that really He, not fickle fate or the brutal hand of man, controls and governs our eternal destiny. Hope is the confident assurance that there is more to life than the frail temples of clay which we call our human bodies. It is no wonder that the Apostle Paul saw faith as a spiritual quality of the soul, based on the assurance that God exists above and beyond anything that man can do to the life of another man, and that our destiny is really in God’s hand.
Resource reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18