by Annette Bridges. All rights reserved.

It’s easy to tell others not to give up hope. But have you ever asked yourself if you believe what you say?

In the past year, I’ve walked with many a friend and family member facing difficult challenges — be it illness, accident, divorce, or death of a loved one. In my desire to help, I’ve tried to offer words of hope and encouragement.

But because I struggled with despair in my own heart over their plight, I recently asked myself if I really had the hope for them that I voiced.

I’ve begun a search to understand more about hope because I want the hopeful words I speak to be words I truly believe.

In her writings, Mary Baker Eddy refers to a famous Italian proverb translated, “While there’s life there’s hope.” And I’ve wondered if the reverse is true — while there’s hope there’s life. A university experiment suggests this is so.

Two groups of mice were observed in the experiment. The first set was restricted so that the mice felt it was hopeless to try to escape. And the second group was arranged in a way to give them some hope of escaping. After a time, both groups were dropped into tubs of water. The first set sank. And the second group immediately swam to safety.

This experiment suggests that hopelessness leads to death while hope results in life. I’ve read other medical school studies that have concluded an attitude of hope contributes significantly to the healing process.

But while I could see the powerful effects of hope and hopelessness on the mice in this experiment, I didn’t want to agree that our hope is contingent on our circumstances and conditions. If I agreed, this would suggest that we could become overwhelmed to the point of drowning in our despair.

I turned to the Bible for more insight. My attention was captured by an account about a woman and the hope that saved her life.

She had struggled with her illness for twelve years and had spent all her money on physicians, seeking healing. But none of them were able to help her. No doubt she had heard about the healing works and teachings of Christ Jesus. And apparently her hope was so great she believed if she could simply touch his clothes, she could be healed. She was healed, but Jesus explained to her that it was her faith that had made her whole.

I thought about this dear woman’s long desire for better health. And I was inspired by her hope as she continued to believe she could be healed, in spite of years of futile searching.

Such examples strengthen my hope and fortify my own determination to never give up on the possibility for a life of health, productivity and potential. They make me hope and believe that healing remains possible for every one and in every case.

For me, this Biblical healing account, while teaching us not to give up but to remain firm in hope, also teaches us to remain open-minded about the method in which healing can come. It teaches us not to limit options and helplessly accept any diagnosis or fear as the final word on life.

So how do I maintain the same hope as this woman who went to Jesus for healing?

Mary Baker Eddy’s explanation of “belief” and “to believe” is helping me answer this question. She writes, “The Hebrew verb to believe means also to be firm or to be constant.” And she continues, “The Hebrew and Greek words often translated belief differ somewhat in meaning from that conveyed by the English verb believe.” The Hebrew and Greek meanings of belief “have more the significance of faith, understanding, trust, constancy, firmness.”

I’m getting a glimmer of what hope really means. Hope that is not merely wishful thinking or looking at life through rose-colored glasses. But hope that is a confident expectation of good and a firm trust based on the understanding of an omnipresent and omnipotent, entirely good God.

Because God is ever-present giving us all we need in every moment, our hope is ever present and a power in the face of whatever obstacle we may encounter. Because God is all-powerful and a loving divine Parent always caring for His children, our hope is indestructible and indelible and it cannot be smothered out as the mice experiment suggested.

With God, divine Love, at our side, we are embraced by hope that helps us see beyond a problem to possibilities. With God, eternal Life, as our guide, we are sustained by hope that keeps us moving forward expecting better days. With God, supreme Mind, directing us, we are renewed by hope that gives us confidence our goals and dreams are obtainable. And with God, infinite Truth, forever instructing us, our understanding is filled with the hope that healing is possible.

The Gospel of Mark says, “…for with God all things are possible.”

Yes, I choose to base my hope on that promise. Those are hopeful words I can believe!