How do we find hope in—and after—tragedy?
Holocaust survivors have every reason to hurt, to be hopeless. Yet, surprisingly, many of the Holocaust survivors you meet—though still possessing painful memories—are happy. They live in hope.
We might ask how someone who lived through a time when—in many, many cases—their families were taken from them, killed, then tossed aside as if they were somehow less than human… how can they have any hope? How can they come out the other side and find life? How can anyone who lived through that start a family, make new friends, or even create a business? Yet, that is EXACTLY what many of them did.
They chose life and hope.
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.”—Psalm 16:9
So, what was—and is—their secret? How do they live in hope? Well, there are a few traits that help:
- Determination—the ability to press through any obstacle and chase down any goal.
- Love of Life—the desire to live, no matter what comes along.
- Thinking Long-Term—not simply focusing on the present, but what the future could be.
- Imagination—just like not focusing on the difficulties of the present, imagination allows you to see eventual futures.
- Purpose—the belief not only that their life has purpose, but living with a focus on that purpose.
Yet, the most important of the traits that allow hope to flourish come from God:
- Trust—that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do—because He is trustworthy.
- Love—not allowing hate for those who hurt you to fester; choosing to love in the face of hatred; knowing that God is love.
- Faith—that God will always win, that He is in charge, and that since He is in charge, difficulties of the present are fleeting.
Together, these traits help fight against doubt, unbelief, and hopelessness. They bring with them the ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel and run toward it—knowing God is there to catch you if you fall.
Yes, countless who died in the Holocaust likely had these traits; believing so fully in God and His unshakable promises that nothing could be stolen from their faith In Him. However, because they died does not mean that God was not with them…
Take Peter and others who were Jesus’ disciples and followers. They also had these traits, yet, some of them met death as Jesus did. Their love allowed them to have hope for the future—a future that is eternal and not fleeting as our lives are.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”—Matthew 5:11-12
Hope is found when we turn our eyes to our Father and realize that He is with us through every high and every low. Yet, more than that, hope is found when we have our eyes so FIRMLY fixed on Him that all we know is the truth of eternity. That our hope is not in earthly things, but in hearing Jesus say to us as we enter Heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (see Matthew 25:21, 23)
How do we walk and live in hope?
It says in both Mark 4:24 and Luke 6:38 that the measure we use will be used to measure back to us. These scriptures, and others, show that if we give good things to others, we will receive good things in return—not only on earth, but in Heaven…
That if we give greatly of our provision, we shall receive great provision. Or if, alternatively, we give little of our provision, we shall receive little. Yes, God gives good gifts to His children, but we are meant to behave as children of God—giving out of the fullness of God’s love, mercy, and grace; out of a desire to give.
If we are lacking hope, we are meant to give hope to others. There may be times where we think that if we give what we need, then we will, in essence, be losing the little we have… but that is not how giving out of love works. Giving out of the measure we have is like planting an olive tree… it may take time to grow, but when it produces its harvest, it provides thousands of times more than what was planted.
Still, giving hope is not the only way we find hope. We also have to CHOOSE to live in hope. Yes. Hope is largely a choice. Because hope is choosing to focus on the positive, the possibilities and realization that the future—especially our ultimate future with God—is good.
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”—Romans 5:5
When we fix our eyes on our Father in Heaven, we are able to live in hope because we cannot see Satan’s ‘song and dance’ meant for our discouragement. We cannot hear the enemy’s lies when we are listening to the voice of our Father.
Imagine if Jesus had not fixed His eyes on His Father! His testing in the desert could have easily led to sin if He had allowed His eyes and ears to wander from God. Even as He was dying on the cross the enemy whispered lies along with the pain of His body. All He had to do was call upon the Heavenly Hosts and He would have been freed. Only, Jesus, out of love, did not allow Himself to listen to the enemy. He only did what He first saw His Father in Heaven do, only believed that which His Father told Him, and only saw that which His Father did.
“Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does…’”—John 5:19-20
Jesus’ hope for the future, His hope in God, allowed each and every one of us access to the Father, to our Savior, and to the Holy Spirit.
Hope. Faith. And love, are the base of our redemption.
“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Hebrews 12:2
No matter how difficult life may seem, there is always hope in God. Finding that hope and being able to live in hope may prove virtually impossible at times, yet, if we pause to ask God for help—fixing our eyes on Him—we will not only find hope. We will overcome…
Survivors of the Holocaust who were once held in Auschwitz are a wonderful testament to our ability to overcome when we focus on God. Many survivors in recent years have RETURNED to the concentration camp they were interned in—where so many of their family members died! They have faced the place that was a living nightmare, and they did so with hope. Hope that their children might be spared from such a fate. Hope that their futures will be brighter—that God has them in the shadow of His wings. And further still, hope that the atrocities will not be forgotten—that it will help prevent future tragedies.
Each of us has been given a measure of hope, but by choosing to face that which frightens us via the simple act of fixing our eyes above, we become more than conquers…
We grow our faith.
“You have heard… ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”—Matthew 5:43-48