As I walked the streets alongside the protesters (and the police and National Guard) after Keith Lamont Scott was killed, it struck me that my life had in no way prepared me to comprehend the depth of their anger, sadness and fear. And as I listen to people’s responses to the elections, the divisions among us seem irremediable. Hope seems in short supply.
That seems the case when we confuse optimism with hope. Optimism is the expectation that things will get better. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. And it is precisely when optimism fails and our love grows dim that we discover hope’s real meaning. Hope’s home is at the innermost point in us, and in all things. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads to true freedom.
To be hopeful in difficult times is not foolishly romantic. Hope does not come at the end, as with the feeling that results from an optimistic outcome. Rather, it lives at the beginning as a pulse of truth, as a sense of what might yet be, that sends us forth. Hope strains ahead, seeking a way behind and beyond every obstacle. The person of hope lives in the moment with trust that all of life is in good hands.
To live hopefully now amid all that is difficult and divisive is itself a marvelous victory. Here are some ways of living hopefully: practice Jesus’ Beatitudes; speak truth to yourself, to others, and to power; do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God; welcome the stranger and stand with the oppressed; ask what is the most loving thing I can do for another in this moment?; fear not; forgive – both others and yourself.
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As musician Ken Medema sings, Hope is believing in spite of the evidence and watching the evidence change.
Hanneman is a spiritual teacher and counselor with an office at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.