Hope Comes in Persevering in a Life of Faith
Man is not made to live without hope. It’s like oxygen to him. Take oxygen away and death comes by suffocation; take hope away and death comes by despair.
The major wars of the last generation and the men and women caught up in them underscore man’s inability to survive when hope dies.
In his remarkable book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Victor Frankl, successor of Sigmund Freud at Vienna, argues that the “loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect” on man.
Frankl observed his Jewish comrades die one after another in Nazi concentration camps, not only by way of the gas chamber, but from the lack of hope. As a result of his experiences Frankl contends that when a man no longer possesses a motive for living, no future to look toward, he curls up in a corner and dies.
“Any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in camp,” he writes, “had first to succeed in showing him some future goal.”
We see a rainbow when the sun shines during or immediately after a rain shower. The bow is formed by the reflection of the sun’s rays in drops of rain and the refraction of those rays. (Refraction occurs when rays of light are bent from their original straight-line course, in passing from one medium to another of different density.)
A ray of sunlight enters a drop of water. Part of it passes directly through and part is reflected from the inner surface. As it both enters and leaves the raindrop, it is bent. When this happens to millions of raindrops, a primary rainbow is produced. A primary rainbow has red on the outer edge and blue or violet on the inner edge.
Sometimes a larger bow appears outside the primary rainbow and parallel to it. You will notice that this secondary rainbow has its color sequence reversed — red is on the inner edge. This is because the sun’s light is refracted twice before coming from the raindrops. Each reflection causes loss of light; so a secondary rainbow is not as bright as a primary one.
Rainbows mean different things to different peoples. Pliny, a Roman naturalist who lived in the first century after Christ, believed that a rainbow foretold a heavy winter or a war. The Arawak Indians of South America believe that if a rainbow appears over the sea, it portends good; but if it is over land, it reveals that an evil spirit is seeking a victim. The Muslims of certain countries believe that if the color red is predominant in a rainbow, war is imminent; a predominant green foretells abundance; a predominant yellow, death. In the mythology of some peoples, rainbows are considered a bridge between earth and heaven.
To me, the rainbow is a symbol of hope. That comes from the story of Noah in the Bible. It is said to be a sign that the earth will never flood again. That is hope.
The message is clear. Men live on hope. When hope dies, we die. I am concerned that there are a number of people who have no hope for their lives — for lives that have no prejudice, no discrimination, no mistreatment of others who are different from them, and a pain that is buried in deception of themselves and others.
This week, we celebrate the birthday and the holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was born at noon Tuesday, January 15, 1929 at the family home in Atlanta, Georgia. It became his mission to make us look at the reality of life, with all its imperfections, and give us hope.
I regret that no one has to convince me personally that prejudice is alive and well. I know what it is to have someone holler the “N” word while you are preaching a service; I know what it is for someone to change your church sign from Morning Worship to “N” Worship; I know what it is for someone to put a sign on your door saying they are representing the KKK and to move or be burned out. I know what it is to see the house burn down.
The good news is that the overwhelming majority of people are better than good, but as someone has said, “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” No wonder Dr. King once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” On another occasion he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Once, he said, “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.” Also, “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” So he concluded by saying, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great of a burden to bear.”
Perseverance is important in the spiritual realm and in all other spheres of life, as well. It has been said that about 99% of all success the people of this world have enjoyed is due to persistence or perseverance. Genius has been described as 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration! However, we don’t generally like to think like that.
Dr. Martin L. King was a man that gave us hope. It is very easy on our part to say, “Oh, isn’t that just wonderful! He was marvelously gifted. I am sure that if I were gifted in a similar way I, too, would be great.” This is used as a cop-out to avoid the long arduous task of persistent study, practice and preparation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was willing to take on that arduous task.
Here are some of the things he said concerning it:
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of the inevitable, but comes through continuous struggle.”
“If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
Let me close by using a few more of Dr. King’s statements: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
The Rev. Darrell W. Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly in Weirton.