Hoping When There Is No Hope

Ernest needs a place to live, but his lack of income, mental health issues, and past assault and battery charge are slamming doors in his face—despite the help of a well-connected friend who has journeyed with him for a long time. Elsa has been a nurse for several years but was recently dismissed because of coming to work in the morning having already consumed too much alcohol. Her family history is rife with alcoholism. On the international scene, living with the fear of again being exterminated makes completely untenable for Israelis the possibility of being subject to attacks by Palestinians. The oppression Palestinians endure is intense. Caring about such situations, how do we respond?

The world is full of seemingly hopeless situations. To live in despair is to make the world worse; yet to live with false hope can contribute to the existence of the problems or make them worse. How can we practice real hope that doesn’t deny reality?

To associate “hope” with my ability to fix things or with my wishes or expectations sets me up for trouble.   We need to have hope within a bigger picture, one even bigger than what we can see.

We can learn to look for signs of hope—indications that something greater than ourselves is at work. The very presence of caring, compassion, knowledge of the complexity of the situation, and support are gifts–things we can be thankful for. Gratitude feeds hope. And if we are looking, we may see things develop that we hadn’t imagined.

But when it seems that nothing offers hope, it matters to live holding the tensions and the pain without having to resolve any of the pieces, to have the courage to live anyway, as much as we can, in the manner we are called to. To love God and our neighbor; to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Living faithfully is to live in hope.

Queries:           

What is your experience of despair? Of hoping when there is not hope?

What about your faith provides a grounding for hope?

Prayer:

Remembering a particular seemingly hopeless situation, read and pray Psalm 13. Put it into your own words.

For further reflection:

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?” (See Romans 8: 24-25).

“Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers . . .” (See Psalm 37: 1-9)

Be Still

Today I have a full day—exercise at 11, lunch at 12:15, haircut at 3, conference call at 5, and meeting at 7. I am feeling anxious and distracted. I don’t feel overwhelmed, because most of these activities are not responsibilities but opportunities for fun and friendship. But I do feel ungrounded. God is “out there,” and I am not in touch. It feels as if I am a stack of children’s alphabet blocks. The stack has been kicked and each separate block is flying around unpredictably in space.

There have been other times when I was at odds with myself and did feel overwhelmed. I was busy with responsibilities and things to do, and some of that included frequent checking email and fiddling with my smart phone. Everything seemed too much.   I stopped, I unplugged and was still.

Maybe in these situations, the quieting comes in yoga class. Maybe it comes in a walk around the block by myself, being aware of the sounds of birds and the beauty around me. Especially if I recognize soon enough the racing that is going on inside of me as I do one thing after another, maybe it is simply sitting down and breathing. Simply being quiet, re-grounding, letting the blocks be put back into a plumb-lined stack. Breathing in the Spirit, letting go the racing. Letting the heartbeat find the divine rhythm.

Queries:

How do you discern when you are doing too much, or when you are not doing what you do need to be doing?

How do electronics figure into your life? How do you keep their use in their rightful place?

What helps you re-find your anchor?

Prayer:

Stop and breathe. Stay with it long enough to find the flow. Be mindful of what you learn from this praying.

For further reflection:

“Only one thing is needed . . .” (Luke 10: 38-42).

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God . . .” (See Philippians 4: 4-7).