Webster’s dictionary defines hope as “to expect or wish... to be optimistic... to cherish a desire of good... with expectation of obtaining it or belief that it is obtainable...to place confidence in, to trust with confident expectation of good.”
I hadn’t thought much about the meaning of hope before my son Zach’s major brain injury while playing football, but with his prognosis of “death to full recovery or anything in between,” I hoped for his full recovery.
Memoirs of miraculous recoveries after severe brain injuries encouraged me. The determination, hard work, and sacrifice of others who endeavored to help their loved ones recover was inspirational and gave me hope. But, after four months in an acute rehabilitation facility, and years of therapies in a residential brain injury school, Zach wasn’t following our hoped-for healing path.
As a follower of Christ, I began to search the Scriptures to see what they said about hope. I found an overwhelming number of verses on the following themes: hope in God, hope in the Lord, hope in his word; I found none, however, that spoke of hope for a certain outcome in a specific situation on this earth. Instead, hope was to be placed in the unchanging person of God.
This is what I felt I had been doing for years — being strengthened and encouraged by God through his word and prayer, experiencing his comfort in the midst of loss. Frequently, times of silence and solitude with him bring me hope; other times he gives me hope through peoples’ encouragement, support, and listening ears. At the end of each day, I reflect on how God has brought me hope that day.
With Zach’s severe physical and mental losses, the promise of him receiving a new body in the new heavens and earth also brings hope. Although I believe in miracles and will always pray for Zach’s full recovery, my ultimate hope is in the person of God, not in Zach’s healing on this earth.
One of my favorite spiritual writers, Jerry Sittser, professor and author of A Grace Disguised, lost his wife, daughter, and mother in a car crash caused by a drunk driver. He paints a comforting picture of what it looks like to find hope in the face of loss:
The experience of loss does not have to leave us with the memory of a painful event that stands alone, like a towering monument that dominates the landscape of our lives. Loss can also leave us with the memory of a wonderful story. It can function as a catalyst that pushes us in a new direction, like a closed road that forces us to turn around and find another way to our destination. Who knows what we will discover and see along the way? The suffering my children, family, friends, and I have experienced is part of an ongoing story that is still being written... the loss was not simply the ending of something good; it was also the beginning of something else. And that has turned out to be good, too.