Hope is Hard Work
I make this claim not only because there seem to be many people these days who feel “hope-less” or less “hope-full” than they did a little over a year ago, but I also hear from many who feel like it is a struggle to find anything to bring them hope.
I also make this claim after two days filled with two funerals. The first, a 17-yr old high school student who committed suicide days before Christmas. The second, a mother of young children who was not able to beat a valiant fight with breast cancer. So, two families that I know are left in these early days of a new year, struggling to find a reason to just get up in the morning.
At times in our lives it feels as though only bad news or tragic events come our way. Whether it is political fighting in the media, or an isolating medical diagnosis, or a devastating divorce or mudslides or …, it feels like a tectonic shift has occurred in our lives. And it all seems to be more than we can bear. Let me be clear here, that if you are at a place where life feels too overwhelming, please reach out now.
I am re-reading Amy Tan’s 2003 memoir, “The Opposite of Fate” where she writes candidly about finding inspiration for her first novels. “I began asking myself about hope. How does it change, transform, endure according to life’s quirky circumstances? And what of the circumstances themselves: Do we believe they are simply a matter of fate? Or do we view them as the Chinese concept of luck, the Christian concept of God’s plan, the American concept of choice? And depending on what we believe, how can we find balance in our lives? What do we accept? What do we feel we can still change?”
Let me be clear about what I mean when I say “hope”, I don’t mean hope in the sense of a noun that describes “optimism” or “anticipation” like when we hear “things will get better – eventually”. Because things will get better, and then they will get worse and then they may be a little better for a while and then a tectonic shift may happen!
When I offer “hope”, I intend it as a verb, a defiant action, a courageous feat, a bold effort, that often takes a lot of work. I think hope may be like exercise, we know it is good for us to do, but sometimes we are just not up to it. Or, we experience that endorphin rush of feeling full of hope, things are great! But, then ACK!! the sugar crash of despair.
So as a Female Over 50, I wonder if I have anything to contribute when a tectonic shift occurs around me. What can I provide to another to keep my balance in my own life and offer comfort?
I read a post on Facebook recently about how as women when our physical bodies begin to show the signs of age – a few extra pounds, more gray hair, another wrinkle – we may see the pretty 20-year-old and sigh. Remember, the Facebook post advises, we were once in our 20’s and had youth and that zest for life, and one day they will grow older, too. And then it goes on to recommend what I think is the helpful part, “we bring our wisdom, experience and good hearts.” And as it ends with likening older women to “warriors” who have “earned each gray hair…marriage, divorce, raising kids, bills and ills”. This Facebook post praises us for what we have accomplished thus far – courage and strength to enter the next chapter of our lives.
I believe hope takes action. It does take courage and strength and I think it takes a lot of hard work. And I think sometimes, like exercising, it’s easy to neglect those things that bring us hope or those places where we find hope visible to us. Or those ways in which we can share an active hope.
I asked several Females Over 50 to share with me where they find hope visible and both shared that this was a good exercise for them. So maybe the action of hope is to recount those places in our lives where we find hope or where we offer hope. We have years of wisdom to share with those who will listen, we have mutual tragedies or simple life experiences that can be shared in active and helpful ways.
In my calling and vocation as a pastor, I have often encountered people who describe themselves as “hope-less” who are fraught with a myriad of struggles. And so, they come to me for a listening presence or an encouraging word or a prayer for things to get better. All of which I am grateful to do, but in all honesty, I often long to equip them with the confidence to be bold, defiant and strong in hope.
As my Christian faith, expresses that whether things get better or worse (which we know throughout our life there will be both) ultimately God’s good intention for us and all creation will succeed. And with my foundation in that promise, I am able to accomplish a “hope-full” action today, standing with the good, opposing evil, and offering what I can, not because I expect or need to save the world. Rather because I believe that since God will save the world, we are free to throw ourselves into taking care of the little corner of the world in which we find ourselves.
And so, the hard work of hope, the constant action of hoping, through the joys and struggles of daily life is possible. And when the tectonic shifts occur around us, maybe we are able to offer some comfort, or maybe a simple, out-stretched hand. And if the tectonic shift happens to you, and despair is more realistic than the hard work of hope, reach out! We will be there to hold you.