Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Swell of Hope

Without hope, there is no courage.  Hope is a powerful antidote for those without courage, who have lost the heart to try.  Encouragement--the act of giving courage--works best when the encourager helps the discouraged find reasons to hope.

In Endurance, Alfred Lansing tells the story of Ernest Shackleton's voyage and entrapment in ice.  After being stuck for months, a small swell of water leads to hope that shatters the group's complacency and their acceptance of an icy end. Lansing says, "Until the appearance of the swell, many of the men had struggled for months not to let hope creep into their minds...But then came the swell--the physical proof that there really was something outside the limitless prison of ice.  And all their defenses they had so carefully constructed to prevent hope from entering their minds collapsed."  Hope made them different, creating a desperation for leaving the ice rather than accepting their situation.  This was hard on them, but it moved the group from discouragement to action.  Hope is strong.

Like the small swell of water, it may not take much to give your child hope.  Maybe a realization by him that he can do something, that he has abilities and gifts that are valued and can be developed and used.  Maybe something to look forward to.  Maybe preparation that instills confidence and hope, even as simple as helping him prepare for a test or rehearsing the words he will say before a discussion. Often small successes lead to another...and another, as hope and courage build.

Ultimately, mature hope that changes discouragement to courage is rooted in God.  As the Psalmist says, "My hope is in you," not in myself, others, or achievements in this world which come and go.  If a child is discouraged, getting hope of some kind is important.  But, it is best when her hope points her to a faithful Creator and not the creation.

May our lives show our children hope that goes beyond what is seen.  May the little ways we get them to hope change to a hope and trust in the living God who cares for them.  May they get to the point where their dreams become God's dreams and they can say with the Jahaziel in Chronicles, "Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's."

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