There is a very well known bible verse in which , the apostle, Paul, tells us that three things will last, even when all else has perished. These are faith, hope, love.
Centuries later, the phrase “where there’s hope there’s life” is prolifically used in modern society. Less often quoted is the next sentence from Anne Frank, where she says that it fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.
Hope is something we all need, something which feeds other positive emotions and outcomes, courage and strength among them. And certainly in my case, it cannot exist without either faith or love.
Faith, Hope, Love
Paul goes on to say that love is the most important of these, and who am I to argue? That said, hope has always resonated as my personal cornerstone. Hope brings light even to the darkest moments, something borne out by experiences of life and also biblically. However, I reconcile myself with love as the anchor in thinking of John 3:16. That verse doesn’t tell me that God had faith in the world, nor that He had hope in it.
Instead, I read that God so LOVED the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. And therein lies the answer; it is because of God’s love that I can have faith and hope.
Hope in darkness
It is no exaggeration to describe this as the single most difficult week of my life. This may seem hyperbolic for someone who lived through three attempts on his own life, but this is a very different me with a much greater consciousness and awareness of the world around me.
During these past few days, I have found myself face to face with one of the darkest memories of my life, something I hitherto thought had been packed and hidden away permanently. However, after nearly forty years, I have found myself processing a tide of visceral emotions.
This year had, in itself, already presented many challenges. We have all been living with isolation from loved ones, managing the uncertainty of lockdowns, vaccines, race and gender issues. In my case, we have had ill heath in our wider family and a seemingly incessant barrage of work. Simply, even prior to this last week, I was mentally and physically exhausted.
Like anything in life, it will pass. The heightened and raw pain will defuse and will, amid the inevitable challenges of life, give way to joy and hope. I have lived through much already, so I can say this with the surety of experience.
I was dead, to all intents and purposes, for so long through the ravages of mental illness until that fateful morning when He pulled me from the jaws of earthly death and into new life, a new creation. Yet today, my life (even now) is one filled with joy and thriving.
This, in many ways, underpins why hope resonates so deeply with me. I lived without hope for so very long until I walked home into the arms of my saviour.
Hope when we cannot see it
Hope is, in itself, a complex emotion, often not making sense. In darkness, the mention of hope seems to have a sense of oxymoron about it but it is something that we often can’t see. Hope is often an intangible, something we feel but can neither explain nor see.
Many of you will know that my journey with Liverpool Football Club has been a constant in my life and the club’s very famous anthem talks about walking with hope in our hearts (not faith nor love!); there have been many moments in my life which have appeared hopeless, yet I have woken up every morning for 46 years and walked on, eventually overcoming every challenge that life has thrown at me.
But that only part alludes to the truth. To the naked eye and non-believer, I may have walked and overcome, but the reality is that I have never done, nor could I have done it alone. I can only overcome because Christ already won the biggest battle of my life on that first Good Friday some 2,000 or so years ago.
Hope in the name of Jesus
Today, more than ever, I can stand tall knowing that Christ overcame the world so I wouldn’t have to. I can remember that I don’t need to see hope in order to feel it, I can remember that because of love and faith, hope is an absolute given even in the darkest moments.
In the words of the Reverend Jago Wynne this Good Friday morning, not only a wonderful man and friend but the man who married Claire and I, “there is hope, and His name is Jesus.”
To add a layer (darkly comedic) to an already overwhelming week, I managed to go flying off my bike in Hyde Park last night. In truth, most of the wounds are superficial, certainly those still weeping some 20 or so hours later from my elbows, hand and knee. More damaging is a wound and swelling to my left thigh which, I suspect, has some fairly deep bruising waiting to come out by tomorrow morning.
As of now, I can’t really bend or flex my thigh which makes me think that running 26.2 miles tomorrow morning would be both a miracle (if successful) and highly unwise! Having already waited over twelve months to kick off the #21in2021 campaign (when it was meant to be #20in2020), and also 516 days since my last marathon, an additional two weeks will not hurt me.
With that in mind, I will not be running tomorrow’s Dorney Lake Marathon but kicking off the campaign on 17 April at the Phoenix Spring Marathon.
Again, amid the pain and discomfort is hope… and a small dose of pragmatism allied to mass determination.