Faith, Hope, Fear and Peace

Eric Van Fossen PA-C, CH

At various times in our lives we all face adversity. Our response to adversity often has the same four elements intertwined to form the rope which we grasp to make it through the storm.

Across a lifetime there are any numbers of things that may make us grasp that rope. I imagine if anything was going to test the strength of one’s rope it would be a diagnosis of cancer. Not only the person with the diagnosis is tested; their loved ones will have the tensile strength of their rope tested as well.

The rope that we hold onto in these times is comprised of four strands. Each strand is an element that combines to make this rope we grasp potentially unbreakable. The four elements of faith, hope, fear and peace; variably play on one another in either a directly proportional or an inversely proportional relationship.


 ↓ HOPE - ↑ FEAR - ↑ MOTIVATION (which may lead back to increased HOPE)



Faith is the strongest strand. Faith means something different to everyone. It can be faith in a higher power, faith in oneself or faith in the doctors. There is no doubt that other resources of faith exist as it is a personal concept.

Hope is a vital element in the battle against cancer. Hope is very much dependent on faith. When faith is strong then hope is easier to find. But hope can still be strong even if one’s faith temporarily falters. Faith is something outside of us that we either reach for or open our hearts up to. Hope is internal. Unfortunately, hope may not be as constant as the faith element. Hope may wax and wane dependent on the news of the day and the physical or emotional state present. Hope is variable between long term goals and short term desires. One can go from being hopeful about a cure, or simply hoping to make it through just another day’s treatment regimen.

Fear is also a strand in this rope we grasp. Obviously it is not a desired part of what we hold onto; but it is an element regardless. Every emotion has an underlying positive intention. Therefore, one could look at fear as a potentially positive element. Some amount of fear may be needed to keep one from slipping into complacency as they go through treatment. Maybe fear is what drives one to make the lifestyle changes needed to help their treatment. Increasing fear may increase motivation. With increased motivation there is hope.

Fear is subjective depending on the person. What is frightful to me may simply be laughable to you. One person may be fearful of the overall cancer diagnosis while for another it may be the treatment more than the diagnosis which causes fear. Fear is also variable. It can be a subdued constant always in the background; but one that wants to come out and play in the middle of the night. Focusing on faith, hope and peace can keep the fear in the background. Peace can vanquish fear.

Peace is an often overlooked element of holding on. Peace is directly proportional to faith and can be used to further subdue fear. Those with a very strong faith may be at peace the entire time. For others, peace may be the last strand which to hold onto. At some point in the travels of a cancer patient they may need to find themselves at peace. If hope has vanished and faith is teetering, the fibers of peace are still available. Peace means acceptance and letting go of the fear. I don’t know which comes first; peace or acceptance. Maybe they are the same thing.

The rope we hold onto has four strands. Faith means something different to everyone. Hope is an internal element of all of us. Fear is an undesirable strand of this rope, but an understandable and purposeful one. Peace is the most internal strand of our rope. Peace may be made from the same fibers as faith and hope.  The four strands are intertwined. Because all of our experiences and beliefs are variable; the four strands have different strengths across different people.

Take another look at the diagram above. Where are you on your journey? What do you need to focus on in order to help you on your way?