"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love." - 1 Corinthians 13:13
I've heard this verse many times before and thought I understood it. But I didn't - not fully, at least. Because out of these three virtues, the one I took less seriously was hope.
Let me explain:
I always viewed hope as a type of naive optimism or wishful thinking that was hardly grounded in reality. I viewed it as a passing, unreliable, 'feel-good' emotion that one could live without. And most of all, I was afraid of being hopeful because I was afraid of disappointment. But my thinking was so flawed. While hope can have emotional benefits, that is not its sole purpose. Its purpose is much greater: to point our eyes to God rather than to our present circumstances. Hope means believing that God will provide, that He will keep His promises, that He is enough.
HOWEVER, MANY OF US LIVE IN RESIGNATION.
We often put our hope in other things - in other people, in our careers, in our possessions, in our talents, etc. We do this because somewhere in the back of our minds we fear that we can't actually find fulfillment in God. We say we do, but do we really?
A life of resignation comes in different forms. The most obvious is what some would call the 'hopeless/pessimistic' disposition - those who are cynical or depressed (I've experienced mental health issues myself so I know that no one is born wanting to feel this way).
But it comes in less obvious forms too. How about the girl or guy who settles for a relationship that doesn't really make them happy, that isn't really fruitful, that's even toxic at times - just because it's convenient, or it's easily available, or it quenches their loneliness for the time being and makes a dull life more entertaining? They yearn for something far more real, fruitful, and intimate, yet they've given up hope that God could grant them anything close to that. So they take matters into their own hands in order to speed up the process, winding up unhappy.
Or what about the reverse of that? Those who remain closed, who never risk opening themselves up to deeper friendships/relationships because they've stopped hoping that they could ever love or be loved?
The same could be said about the person who looks to their career, their talents, or their achievements for a sense of worth, even though they know that if they lost their jobs, their skills, and their titles, they'd lose all sense of themselves, because their hope is not grounded in something more permanent. Or what about the reverse: those who settle for mediocrity because they've lost hope in much more?
We live a life of resignation when we refuse to return to God, to ask for forgiveness, or to seek His mercy, because we've given up hope in His grace. The false belief that we are 'damaged goods' is living in resignation. When we fall down and choose not to get up with the grace of God, that is living in resignation.
Fr. Jacques Philippe would even go as far as to say that sin is the direct cause of living without hope: "At the root of sin lies doubt, suspicion of God ... Doubt gives rise to distrust: we don't believe God can fulfill us and make us happy. Then we try to manage on our own, in disobedience." If Adam and Eve had placed their hope in God for fulfillment, they wouldn't have bitten that apple.
Hope is the virtue that keeps us pushing when we've practically lost our fight. Hope is what empowers us to live the life we were called to live, despite being countercultural. Hope is what gives meaning to our suffering. In fact, the difference between suffering that leads to despair and the suffering that leads to sainthood is hope.
WHAT'S IT GONNA TAKE TO LIVE WITH HOPE?
Hope means banking on God completely, and that takes a lot of guts. Hope is not for the fainthearted; it's for the courageous. Hope is not for the naive or for those who are ignorant of reality; it's for those who are convinced of the Truth, of a reality beyond this reality. Hope isn't simply for the weak; it's for those who aren't afraid to acknowledge their weaknesses because they are sustained by God.
I'll leave you with a few statements from Fr. Jacques Philippe in his book called Interior Freedom:
- "Hope can only be born in poverty. That is why poverty of spirit is the key to all real growth in love."
- "Faith, then, produces hope, and hope makes love possible and helps it grow."
- "As long as hope remains, love develops. If hope is extinguished, love grows cold."
As long as you hope in God, there will always be hope for you. Always.