Finding Hope in Trials
If you met Alec for the first time right now, you would have no idea that he has terminal cancer. And he wouldn’t tell you about it unless you pried it out of him. He has a very unique and amazing perspective about his situation. Many people are inspired by him because of his cheerfulness and his attitude of hope. How does he find hope in his devastating trial? That is what Elizabeth Smart came to our house to figure out. On the evening of June 15th, Elizabeth was in my home interviewing my little brother, Alec, for the very purpose of figuring out how he finds hope in his trial.If you don’t know who Elizabeth Smart is, let me help you. Elizabeth is 28 years old, but gained national attention when she was 14 years old after being abducted and recovered 9 months later. Her abduction and recovery motivated parents, law enforcement, and leaders world-wide to focus on children’s safety. You can read more about her story here. She is a shining example of how to stay hopeful and find a way to live life to it’s fullest after and during trials. Elizabeth has inspired and helped so many people since her recovery. Her foundation, Elizabeth Smart Foundation, continues to help many.
The reason she was interviewing Alec, is because she is writing a book about hope. Although she is one of the greatest examples of someone finding hope in trials, she is reaching out to other super stars who have accomplished a similar feat to help enhance her book. And Alec is one of those super stars. Although there is not a surefire way on how to find hope in trials, I believe that by observing how Alec has done it, it can help benefit us all as we battle our own trials and search for hope.
What is Hope?
First, lets identify what hope actually is. I would define hope as the belief and affirmation that one is going to be okay no matter the circumstance. When someone has hope and is going through a trial, they do not blame others or God for their happenstance. They do not stop living and doing their best to succeed. They do not look for special attention because they feel that they are more deserving than others. They do not give up and think that their fight is through. They do look for ways to make the best of their situation. They do help others in their battles. They do find a way to keep their spirits up and keep fighting. They do know that whatever happens, they have done their best and everything will be okay.
As we go through trials our level of hope has its ups and downs. However, Alec has found a way to maintain an amazingly high level of hope in spite of terminal cancer. The kid is 18 years old and he knows he is going to die relatively soon. How does that effect him? He somehow wears a smile on his face everyday. He is working on getting his GED because he had to drop out of school for treatments. He started and runs AJU Foundation to help others who are currently battling cancer like he is. He is still a big nerd and plays his nerdy games and watches his nerdy shows. He lives his life as if it will last forever. He even jokes about his death with me. I always ask him what stuff I get when he dies, and he thinks it’s funny. Although I don’t totally understand how he has such a great attitude and how he has so much hope for life, there are a few things that I have observed that contribute to his positive and hopeful attitude. Here is what I have observed that has helped him find hope in his trial.
Accepting the Situation
About two and half months ago, Alec finished his radiation treatment plan and was scheduled for an MRI to see how his tumors had progressed. The MRI showed more tumors had developed up and down his spine that were not their a few short months before. He got this news after he had followed a chemotherapy and radiation plan for the past year and a half. The news was devastating. The doctors where unsure what to do and speculated how much longer he would live. Right after Alec got the news and was home from the hospital, he went up to his room and was crying by himself. His family tried to comfort him, but he just wanted to be alone. He was in his room for a little while when he started listening to music to help calm his nerves. The song titled Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da by The Beatles came on. The phrase “life goes on” is repeated throughout the song. This phrase helped him realize that although his situation sucks, life still goes on. It’s going to go on whether he decides to hate life or embrace it. No matter what he chose, life was still going to go on. He decided to accept the situation for what it was and not let the circumstance overcome his ability to be happy and live life the way he wanted too.
Accepting the situation for what it is, does not mean you give up and let whatever happens happen. To accept the situation means to do all you can to address and fight the trial, but to realize that no matter the result, it is what’s supposed to happen. When you accept the trial for what it is, you do not blame others for the trial or wish that life happened a different way for you. You accept it and you determine to fight it the best way you know how and then accept whatever the result.
Alec has accepted the fact that his cancer is going to end his life prematurely. There is a lot of unknown of exactly when, but he knows it is going to happen. He is still trying to fight it through unconventional channels, but he knows and understands that this is the way it is. It is not going to change and he is going to keep living life to its fullest until his body gives up.
Family and Friends SupportLife is not meant to be lived alone. Feeling alone in our battles can be the most debilitating thing in a trial. Unfortunately, it is a very common feeling when we go through trials. These feelings are destructive and make trials much more difficult. Alec has an amazing support group in his family and friends. He has received many anonymous gifts, he always has someone around to hang out with him even if it is just his dog sometimes. His amazing support group is a major factor of how he is able to maintain such an incredible attitude and have so much hope for his situation.
If you are going through a difficult trial right now and feel like no one really cares what you are going through, then you are not alone in your feelings. See what I did there ;). The reality is, there is always someone that cares more than you think. Sometimes people dealing with trials can create a false perception of reality and think they are alone. This is not reality, there are people who care. And if you truly believe that you are alone, then be the person in someone’s life that you wish you had. That will turn things around for you. Feelings of loneliness are real, but it can be combated with being selfless and helping others in their trials.
Having a Purpose
If we don’t have a purpose for living then it is difficult to keep going. If we don’t have a purpose, then we distract ourselves with pleasure. Pleasure does not bring hope, pleasure is temporary and short lived. Hope is lasting and is more of an anchor than a fleeting moment like pleasure is. Finding pleasure in things that we enjoy is good, but if we have pleasure in the absence of hope, then we are left with emptiness when the pleasurable moment is through.
Alec finds purpose in his family. He fights and wants to be happy for his family. He finds purpose in helping others through his foundation. He finds purpose in his faith in God, and his belief that this life is a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
If we want to have hope, we have to have purpose. A reason to keep fighting. Find you purpose and it will help you find hope. A great book that I have read about finding purpose in our lives is called Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It is a quick read, and if you haven’t read it then I highly suggest that you do. In it, he says, “those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” There are so many good nuggets of wisdom like that in there. Pick yourself up a copy and read it!
Hope is available for everyone. It is deserved to be had by everyone. Although we all may find hope a little differently, learning to accept the situation, having a support group, and having a purpose can help you find hope in your trial.
Comment below on how you have found hope in your trial!