An Atheist's Hope

How do you find hope without God? That is a question I’ve been asked. I secretly want to turn it around and ask, “How can you find hope with God? Haven’t you read the Bible?” I’ve read the Bible. That’s why I am not a believer.

But, I think the deeper question is, “How do you find hope to deal with chronic illness without falling into despair everyday?” That question is worth a longer answer. I have been living with serious illness for over 15 years. At first, I hoped for rescue. I wanted a cure. I wanted my old life back. The despair was intense and religion made it worse.

 Friends at church prayed for healing that didn’t come. If there was a God who was in control, and chose for unknown reasons to give me an incurable illness on purpose, I couldn’t trust someone who did that. If someone had the power to fix this with a whisper, but chose silence, this isn’t someone I would want to be my friend. I can’t trust a God who can heal but doesn’t, anymore than I could trust a surgeon who could remove a tumor, but chose not to. If a talented surgeon refused to operate and just watched a tumor grow until the patient died in agony, would you trust them? Then why trust God? If God cares, but is powerless to help, then God isn’t all powerful. Why believe in such a being? 

Getting beyond the initial despair was hard. I didn’t know what to expect, or how muscular dystrophy would feel. I didn’t know how to do the things I needed to do to look after myself. A big part of healing for me came from education. I learned about the various stages of my illness and how it would change my body. I learned how other people adapted to weak arm muscles and weak legs. Knowledge gave me strength. Instead of fearing some imaginary unknown, I knew what to expect.

I also gave myself the space and time I needed to grieve. Grief is ongoing when someone has a progressive illness. I get sicker in stages and each time I lose an ability, I grieve the loss. Then I adapt and get used to it, only to lose another ability. Progressive illness is like that. Rage doesn’t change it. Adapting as I need to gives me hope that I can deal with the changes in my life.

Finding hope in heaven doesn’t appeal to me. The idea that I will suffer with incurable illness for 20 or 30 years, die, and then get transported to magical happy land, is silly to me. I don’t want to live forever. I want to live now, on this amazing planet. I want to enjoy the time I have here. I find hope in the changing of the seasons. Every year winter yields to spring and the world around me explodes in color. Life is renewed, and I am alive with it. I find hope in biology. The creatures in a droplet of water astound me. The fact I get to be a part of the natural world gives me hope. One day my atoms will nourish life on this planet. I will become part of the grass and the creatures. Knowing that fact gives me hope. I don’t need eternal happy land. This life is enough for me.

I find hope in relationships. I’m not alone. I’m not the only person who struggles with chronic illness. Lifting others who struggle, lifts me. I’ve got 15 years of experience dealing with this mess. When I was taking chemotherapy and my eyebrows fell out, a fellow cancer survivor taught me how to draw eyebrows. I know how to draw realistic eyebrows. I can pass that knowledge to others. I cannot take away suffering, but I can work to ease it in myself and others. This gives me hope.

I find hope in music and art, in silence and laughter. I find hope in literature, and travel, and learning new things. I find hope in a frog hopping across my path. Life is still interesting! I find hope in curiosity and the freedom to explore. I find hope in a strong moral compass, one based on compassion for the people around me. Doing what is most compassionate, doing what I can to lift others, gives me hope. Giving my hope to you right now, so we can be stronger together, that doesn’t just bring me hope, but inner peace as well.

Post a Comment

  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP