By Sarah Adams
Gray Space Graces Column
I recently texted some of my friends and asked them how they define hope. I got a variety of thoughtful answers. From, “hope is something to hold on to” to, “hope is an outgrowth of the Love that created us — a living, breathing rebellion against violence, hatred, oppression and death” to, “hope is the belief in better to come.”
How do you define hope, and what do you hope for? Hope reminds me of expectation. When I think of hope, I think of partaking in a reality that has not yet come. This can be related to anticipating our life after death, but it can also relate to hopes within our lives on earth. To hope is a very active practice. James Cone writes, “hope is not a theoretical concept to be answered in a seminary classroom or in the privacy of one’s experiences. It is a practical idea that deals with the realities of this world.”
The Easter season provides us with the hope most central to our lives as Christians. Jesus’ resurrection gives us the hope that death does not have the last word. This provides comfort, but it doesn’t make all of our problems go away. It seems that hope is hardest to hold on to precisely during the times that we need it the most. In one of my friends’ definitions of hope, he mentioned, “I think it’s easy to be optimistic when times are good or the path to what we want seems easy, but encountering obstacles or challenges and still maintaining the same level or optimism can be extremely difficult.”
I think that hope can be likened to a deep breath. When I’ve felt hopeless or been in situations that feel too heavy to bear, a deep breath is like reminding myself that I’m okay. It gives a moment of freedom and of perspective: the liberty to say, “this situation may seem bleak, but I still have the ability to take a deep breath.” It is a cue to reset and then to go forward. A deep breath, like hope, gives us the strength to take one more step.
We have all had times when hope has felt absent. Maybe you’re feeling like that right now. In my own life, I’ve had times of hopelessness, too. Often for me, this loss of hope has come out of feeling stuck or overwhelmed — when the heaviness of grief or doubt or numbness stifles the deep breath of hope. I have to be reminded, in those times, that I have lived through all my experiences, good and bad, before this. I must ground myself in the fact that no matter what I’m facing, I am doing so with a loving God holding my hand every step of the journey. I have to be reminded that there are others around me that have lived through similar situations.
It is through encounter with God, who is both personal and relational, and with one another, imaged after that God, that hope can be rekindled. Today, let’s all take a deep breath of hope, spend time in conversation with the God of hope, and reach out to a loved one to give or receive some hope.
(Sarah Adams is social media coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport.)