I’ve always taken great comfort in what the Roman statesman Cicero asserted, “While there’s life there’s hope.” It’s true. Many people usually don’t consider the notion of hope until they are desperate or in dire need of understanding. Our hurried “get it done now” culture helps distract us from looking at the idea of hope. Many don’t take the time to consider what the true meaning of our existence is in relation to hope. Many don’t take time to listen to their hearts and search for truth in their experience and the “still, small voice within” in attending to this powerful virtue. Some of us are stuck on the wheel of fortune until the wheel challenges us to recognize that we’ve landed on an existential quandary.
The idea of “hope” was so significant to St. Paul that he included it as one of the most important theological virtues. He wrote, “Faith, hope and love remain.” St. Paul recognized that without hope we are adrift on a sea of wonder. There is nothing to ground us. There is nothing to give our lives meaning. Most importantly, there is nothing to direct our attention to God and the reason for being and serving God through our service to others.
Cicero’s statement is not just an antiquated platitude; it has been documented in modern literature and the experience of modern life itself. Stephen Hawking believed this quote and it inspired him to keep going when he learned at the age of twenty-one that he was suffering from a degenerative neurological disease that would take his life at the age of seventy-six. Hawking outlived his predicament of death by holding true to this idea of “hope” and working for the common good of humanity through his scientific discoveries.
HOPE BRINGS PURPOSE
Hope brings with it purpose and vice versa. The virtue of hope is not only fed but also nourished from the idea of purpose. Too often we don’t examine the significance of purpose in our life – whether it be living for the good of a child, parent, or friend, or a vocation that has called us to sacrifice for something greater than ourselves. The common denominator in recognizing the power of hope is the idea of purpose.
Purpose brings hope! Hope is attained when one realizes a deeper sense of meaning. The great psychiatrist Viktor Frankl asserted this truth in his book “Man’s Search For Meaning.” Frankl documented his experiences in Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp and discovered a truth that would lead to his revolutionary psychiatric treatment of logotherapy. Having experienced death and the will to live, Frankl noticed that the prisoners who had a sense of purpose and something to live for had a better chance of survival than those who had no purpose. The book documents the many instances of suffering and how prisoners found meaning through their suffering. It was the response to suffering that made all the difference in the world.
Frankl looked at his suffering objectively and was able to conquer it by finding purpose through it. He was able to recognize that his suffering would one day be a tool for helping others in the future. It was this tenet that sustained him and established a keen instinct toward survival. He writes:
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
If this is true, the central question becomes how do we answer to life by being responsible? The central question becomes, how do we find purpose through service to others? Reverend Richard Fragomeni agrees with Frankl. I once heard him say, “One shouldn’t seek purpose; one should make purpose… If one is seeking purpose, he may spend his whole life looking and never find it.” When an individual makes purpose by directing his life for the greater good, he establishes within himself a greater context for the whole of being. Life becomes a bountiful gift of grace that is witnessed through his actions. Service also becomes the great reward of the heart and offers the individual an opportunity to experience God’s grace in a deeper more meaningful way.
Plan of action:
Consider your gifts and what they mean to you.
Consider how your vocation can benefit others.
What small steps can you take in making purpose?
Where is the greatest hope in your life?
What actions have you taken to give your life meaning through service to others?