This week a photograph of 5-month-old Sonies Awal being held aloft has become a symbol of hope.
Sonies was found alive in the rubble of his family home in Muldhoka, Bhaktapur, east of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, 22 hours after the devastating earthquake that killed more than 6000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
Amidst awful scenes of hopelessness the discovery of a baby alive lifted the spirits of many and as the pictures spread around the globe the stories of survival helped to provide hope to a world that seems to have seen more than its fair share of natural disasters.
Hope is more than just a fanciful wish that things will get better. When a nation has been devastated by an earthquake hope enables the rescuers to keep searching; to keep listening for the muffled sounds of life below the rubble. Hope enables those people in positions of responsibility to plan for life after the clean-up has been completed. Hope motivates architects, town planners and builders to design for a future that is likely to include more natural disasters, but will also see babies born, relationships blossom, dreams realised, ideas developed and creativity nurtured. Hope motivates people hundreds of thousands of kilometres away to donate funds towards relief efforts.
On the back of the door in my office I have pinned these words that relate to the way in which hope can help in the process of change for those affected by mental illness and addictions:
Hope is the limitless belief that things do not have to remain the same and that change can and does happen. It is about concentrating on strengths rather than weaknesses, focussing on the future rather than the past and celebrating small successes rather than insisting on rapid change…
The apostle Paul put it this way:
Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God’s approval, and his approval creates hope. This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us. (Romans 5:1-5 Good News Translation)
The picture of baby Sonies in Nepal is not only a picture of hope for a nation, but a picture of God’s love for all people; a picture of hope and grace that rises out of endurance.