"Hope", painted by George Frederick Watts
I have finally found a visual expression of my own experience with hope. I am so grateful. Can you see the single string on the lyre the women is holding? The painter, George Frederick Watts, explains why all the strings are broken, except one, and why. As I have explored the deeper meaning and beauty of hope (the one remaining string) I have come to believe that Jesus Christ's atonement is at the very root; hope springs from the atonement of Christ.
Watts painted this painting, entitled "Hope", in 1885. It was given to the British nation in 1897. The painting is displayed at London’s Tate Museum. They have this to say
"In the Bible (Hebrews, 6:19), hope is ‘an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.’ Here [in Watt's painting], Hope is blindfolded, seated on a globe and playing a lyre of which all but one of the strings are broken . . . Hope’s attempts to make music appear futile and several critics argued that the work might have been more appropriately titled Despair. Watts explained that ‘Hope need not mean expectancy. It suggests here, rather, the music which can come from the remaining cord’."
For me, that one remaining, blessed cord is the anticipation of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith in a joyful, glorious eternal life sustains me during those moments when "all but one of the strings are broken". When I suddenly recall those broken strings (a beloved person no longer in my life or a lost ability I once had) and feel full of grief or loneliness, the thought of eternal life free from mortal pain of any sort, and Christ's unconditional, unfathomable love for me nourishes my soul. It fills me with true hope.
Sometimes during difficult moments, though, I have to strain my ears to even hear that music because religious things may sound a little silly to me. I often hear the music from that "one remaining cord" through other things that don't seem to have anything to do with Jesus Christ: connecting with another person, listening to beautiful music, humor, being out in nature or serving others. In retrospect I look back at those "non-religious" experiences and I see that Christ's atonement and love for me is always the pretty melody to the music I feel from those things, and that those other things simply add beautiful harmony.
Ulitmately, though, the way I hear the quiet, melodious note during the darkest moments is through the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost. His voice helps me to hear that "music from the remaining cord" when I need it most. I love the role of the Holy Ghost. His voice feels like a warm, comforting feeling in my heart. It feels like a new positive thought or prompting in my mind. He often fills my mind with the realization that the person who just called me was inspired to call at that moment, or that I was just prompted to call or visit a person in need. He is God's helper to comfort, teach and remind us that we are loved and needed. He is God's helper to inspire us about what TRUTH is.
One of those truths is that life does have challenging moments, but they prepare us to live with God. Another of those truths is that Heavenly Father wants us to experience JOY.
This hope, through faith, is available to all of us. Hope is not an uncertain thing, like unpredictable weather, but is a certain, sure, unwavering faith in God's promises when we are faithful. Even though it extends into the eternities, it can help us every day to face whatever challenges come our way...every day...every minute.
How? It's not always easy, because some of our challenges are so hard we can't imagine how we could ever see even a glimmer of hope. We just need to hang on. I know that when we do things like pray daily to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost, serve others, or study the scriptures and follow their teachings, those things eventually pay big dividends and we will hear that "one remaining cord" of hope sing again. Sometimes we hear an entire symphony of joyful hope. I believe that.
The Apostle Paul taught, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4). When those things feel silly, though, or we feel distant from the comfort that comes from those things, we just need to hang on. There ARE better times ahead. You ARE loved. You ARE needed. God has not forgotten you. He will never forget you.
So, when life feels hard, may we all recall the image of Hope, with her peaceful countenance, as she listens to the music of the most important cord of all, which I believe is hope in an eternal perfect quality of life with those we love, made possible through the loving atonement of Jesus Christ for you and for me. May we each hear that beautiful sound.
[I had been trying to find this painting for at least 2 years. I'd read a short reference to a painting of 'a woman and a string that represented hope'. I tried to find it in books and on the Internet, unsuccessfully, until today. I am so thankful that I stumbled across the image as I was looking for something else! It speaks volumes to me of my own experience with hope.]