[Editor’s note: This article follows last week’s article "Why I Doubt."]
… there are three that remain … faith, hope and love…
-St. Paul of Tarsus (1 Cor. 13)
It’s funny how we have eliminated the middleman.
Faith, as the bedrock of our Christian experience, is the starting point. This concept has been expounded on, preached about and philosophized over by countless people. Paul talked about holding on and maintaining his faith in the midst of the most hostile of environments imaginable. Jesus said that even a minute amount of faith (something modern theologians revel in … quantifiable, measurable faith) could transplant a mountain.
Love, it seems, gets a majority of the airtime in Christian-land. Again, this should be no real surprise … God is Love, and it is the greatest of the three things. God so loved the world <, and the list goes on. Even the most polarized groups can agree that love is vital to our existence. But what about hope; what about the middleman?
I’m not offering an exegetical or hermeneutic exposition on what hope is and what it means. I’m not really qualified to do that, and many smarter people would probably disagree with me. All I can do is tell you what hope means to me. As a notorious questioner, I often find myself looking around this planet and am heartbroken by the depletion of hope. People give up on life every day; hope is smothered by a bleak reality.
So, how do I find hope in this world? What is hope, anyway? I don’t think it’s letting God off the hook for all the things I don’t understand. And I refuse to believe it entails sticking my head in the sand while catastrophe seemingly runs amuck, unfettered by the cosmos. I think hope is staring into the face of dismal uncertainty or unthinkable tragedy while realizing we are not alone. There is comfort and solace in community. The metaphorical body of believers is not as symbolic as we think. We are a living, breathing organism that sustains one another in dire times.
Hope is that sometimes-irrational feeling that life will get better. We can look around and see that even though progress and technology has given us improved ways to create calamity, the root of evil has been around a long time. God has always committed questionable acts, by our thinking, but he has always doled out unquestionable grace. It is easy to point a finger at heaven and rail against the silence we sometimes hear. But are we willing to raise our heads toward that same heaven in unmitigated awe when goodness abounds? We seem to have selective memories about what God does and doesn’t do.
I am willing to concede that some terrible things happen on this earth. But I am also willing to speculate that the incredible things, the heroic and glorious, also are a result of supernatural intervention. I find my hope in this. In looking around and discovering all the beauty in this world, I would argue that the magnificent outweighs the malicious and acts of grace outnumber ill-will. How? Because I see it every day.
I can hope because I see the potential for kindness in my children’s eyes. I see acts of bravery and selflessness being demonstrated by my brothers and sisters. I have been in places where people have given me the (only) shirt off their back. I have witnessed the poor and hungry being helped by people who want no glory. I have seen too much good not to hope.
I hope because I can look up to that same heaven and know that one day I will be looking down.