We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.

Winston Churchill

There was no rhyme or reason. No family history or health indication. What began as mild discomfort morphed into the discovery of a life-altering diagnosis. Then the battle. For life. For sanity. For hope. For normalcy. Not one fight but a persistent series of humbling encounters with the only path that seemed available. One dark option among a world of worsening options. Everything stops. And yet, everything still must go on.

Sound familiar? It surrounds us. Whether in our own home, a neighbor’s, at the office, in the school, or at church, we all come face-to-face with those fighting a battle. Often the battle. Pick your enemy, there are many opponents: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s, to name just a few. We seem assaulted on all sides by these fearful demons.

We see the battles. Many of us are in the battles. What do we do? How do we help? How can we go on? These burdens are so very heavy.

Recently, I’ve watched a number of people close to me enter the war of their lives. The war for their lives or that of a loved one. Parents, spouses, siblings, friends – watching, waiting, crying, praying. Those on the outside watch helplessly, trying to find an encouraging word. Hoping to be helpful. Those on the inside simply fight for the next step, next breath, next moment. They exist, trying to be hopeful, trying to be brave, trying to stay normal. So very heavy.

There are no casual motivational words for these times. The stakes are high and hope is the only currency worth anything. But where do we find hope? Where do we find strength? Where is courage hiding when we feel most frightened?

I recently heard hope described as a “fighting virtue.” Hope is not wishful thinking, it is choosing to believe in a better future; to believe in a moment or place where the darkness passes. We find hope in action, in movement toward or beyond. Our sense of possibility fosters hope.

For some, hope lies in their faith in something more. A place beyond this world. Where else might we find hope? In others? In science and medicine? In ourselves? Strangely, even hope is a choice; even when we feel there are no choices left.

On those days when it feels too heavy. Choose the fighting virtue. Choose hope. Believe in something more than today’s pain. Believe in those around you. Believe in love and its amazing gifts. Believe in the value of these moments that seem so heavy – the life you are living. Believe that there are worthy moments to be had, even in the midst of suffering. Choose to engage the despair directly, with an unreasonable hope. With an uncompromising hope. With a defiant hope.

Then, share that hope. Share your choice with those you love the most. Spread it around unapologetically. Refuse the darkness and all of its emptiness. Fill yourself and your moments with active love. With active hope. In the process, you might lift another’s burden a bit. You might find yours lightened in the smallest way. You might begin to see the gifts hiding in these moments and, perhaps, better moments ahead.