Tuesday, 19 February 2008

A response to the secular perspective on hope in the face of despair

From BBC Website:

Facing despair

Hope is based in reality - it's not optimism, wishing or dreaming. Facing up to dark and difficult truths enables hope to emerge and new doors to open.

For example, when cancer is first diagnosed the hope is for a cure. If the cancer spreads or the treatment doesn't work then the hope changes - one hopes that the cancer can be held at bay for as long as possible with few symptoms. Hopes for family holidays, reunions and anniversaries can be worked on and achieved. This can be a special time.

If the cancer spreads further and it becomes clear that it'll cause death then hope shifts again. The hope is for a peaceful, pain-free death, for good endings with friends and family, for reconciliations - and for preparation with spouses and children who'll be left behind. Memory boxes and books, letters and photographs can be used to pass on pearls of wisdom and hopes for the future of those left behind. Beliefs beyond death can be examined and spiritual issues never normally discussed can lead to deep and meaningful moments with huge intimacy and understanding.

Setting achievable goals

When despair creeps in it's often because expectations are unrealistic. Goals can be set that are impossible to achieve and the person repeatedly fails and becomes frustrated and hopeless. Re-setting goals and accepting limitations means that plans go ahead and pleasure and fulfilment allow hope to return - and despair vanishes.

For instance, many people dream of a holiday somewhere warm and sunny. However, holiday insurance can be difficult to obtain, travelling by air can be fraught with obstacles and it seems that one barrier after another is put in the way. Altering the goal slightly to travel within Europe by train or a visit to the beautiful Devon coast, for example, can suddenly make this dream a reality, and hope is back.

Day to day, it's important to attempt activities that are achievable - it may no longer be possible to dig over the entire garden, but it may be hugely rewarding to plant out summer bedding plants and transform the garden with colour.

Dreams and wishes are important but can disappoint and frustrate. Hope is real and gives huge comfort and peace - leaving no room for despair.

Dr Suzy Jordache, BCC Website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/relationships/coping_with_grief/terminalillness_hope.shtml)

I do not doubt the wisdom in this advice TO SOME EXTENT. I am sure that learning to set achievable goals really makes a difference when expectations are high and physical capability is diminishing. But is this really the best hope that the world has to offer?

Is this all we can offer people - the hope of a final holiday? The hope of a pain free death? The hope of not being forgotten? Of passing on wisdom to the next generation? IS THAT THE BEST WE CAN DO?

What happens when we return from the holiday? What happens when the pain doesn't go away? Can true, life-giving hope really be rooted in these things? Are real people in this real, broken world really satisfied with these solutions?

There is only one sure foundation for hope in the face of despair, hope in the face of death:

'Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." ' - 1 Corinthians 15:51-54

'And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."' - Revelation 21:3-5

Oh how I ache for the fulfillment of those words. And oh how I ache for the people around me to know their truth.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

My favourite conversations with old people:

Old lady 1: ‘I’ve been admiring your asbestos lawn – very nice!’

Old lady 1: [calls me over] ‘I don’t quite know how to approach this topic…but you know your green walking stick?...Well...I had it for Christmas [gives me a cheeky look]! I’ll try to use it in the correct way.’

Old lady 1: [whilst on the toilet] ‘We heard a tremendous noise the other night…so loud! It was like… it was like…what’s the word? It was like…….

Me: What was it like? [I’m thinking thunder?]

Old lady 1: ‘It was like a fart! And it was so long too, we were surprised at how long it was. It was at least 4 ft long!’

Me: [coming into bedroom to take dirty dishes away] 'Can I take your cup?'

Old lady 2: ‘Yes, but leave the saucer here for my…my…what’s it called? My otter.'

Me: 'Your otter???!!??'

Old lady 2: 'Yes, he comes up to see me sometimes [deadly serious].

[Half an hour later…]

Me: ‘Have you seen that otter?’

Old lady 2: 'No, I don’t know where he lives.'

Me: 'Probably a river'

Old lady 2: 'Well yes he lives in the river, but he hasn’t been up to see me. I’ve had to give my affections to a puma instead.'

Me: 'a PUMA???!!!'