Hope as a light in the darkness
Hope… a word easy to type and say, but not always so easy to feel. It is a feeling that seems hard to grasp at times, just slipping out of our reach in our lowest moments. It can be difficult to create an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in our lives or the world at large.
Nevertheless, hope is a key motivation in our lives. Finding hope, holding on to it, losing it, getting it back and strengthening it – that is the way of our lives. Hope keeps us going.
Feeling hopeless, on the other hand, can stop us in our tracks. It can block energy, growth, happiness and love. Hopelessness at its worst can be deeply destructive – to our potential, health and ultimately our life.
Is it any wonder that hopelessness tends to feel “heavy”, while hope feels “light”?
At the core of feeling hopeless is the belief that improvement, a solution or healing – you name it, are not possible. We are all capable of holding this belief for short or longer periods in our lives. It all depends on what has or is happening. Equally, hopelessness can be more or less intense: a momentary and short-lived frustration and pause before we commence doing what we need to do. Sometimes the belief of hopelessness festers into a conviction, a deep despair that is reinforced by a growing resistance to try or do anything different. Without a doubt, hopelessness is impacted by our mental and emotional wellbeing as well as the other way round – it is a bidirectional relationship.
There are plenty of theories and surveys that consider spirituality as a potential source (of energy) that can accelerate hope enhancement (Faghihe, 2011). Some psychologists have also concluded that people may need religion in order to promote hope (Abarghouei, 2011).
In one particular study that explored ‘raising hope in Qur’an and psychology’, one of the noticeable results found that many of the techniques for creation and improvement of hope are already present in the Qur’an. It was found that both psychology and the Qur’an both view hope as a rewarded patience along with action to achieve one’s goal, and both fields concur that knowing one’s goal and obstacles can preserve hope in man. Some differences were also found e.g. in contrast to psychology where the techniques proposed for hope improvement are individual for the most part, the Qur’an however aims at proposing behavioural approaches in societal scale in addition to individual solutions (Shirvani, 2018).
Therefore, it is important to take a more serious look at the role of hope in the process of treatment, and to appreciate the power of hope in oneself when treating clients (Bahari, 2010).
As much as feeling despair is understandable and human, there is a lot we may do that keeps us trapped in this darkest of feelings – the way we think or process helps shape our reality. Our thoughts may naturally wander to the past and focus on events that did not work out or other situations that were painful. That will often add to any depressive thoughts and hopelessness as it can bring about difficulty seeing any positive events or remembering that you were ever ‘happy’.
As Muslims, we know we should try to keep a balance in aspects of our lives – too little hope and too much hope can harm us (just like with anything else e.g. fear, love). Practicing mindfulness while doing acts of kindness and in our everyday life can also help to bring some hope. Practicing Salaah (prayer) routinely can be one way to bring about some hope and grounding – know that you are taking time to talk to your Lord and let out any anguish in the form of ad’iyah (supplications) in your sujood (prostration).
Turning to your faith can be a strong ally in holding on to hope. Sometimes your faith offers the support of not being alone and trusting that a higher power is with you. If you are questioning your beliefs, then research or talk with someone more knowledgeable in your faith whom you respect. Others have encountered difficult times, and they will understand. Voicing questions can be a step towards resolving your confusion and a step towards hope.
Inspirited Minds is here for you too. May the light of hope flare in your darkest moments so that you manage to shine through them, no matter how awful this life may feel and all the trials it gives, Ameen.