“The most hopeful people in the world are the young and the drunk: the first because they have little experience of failure, and the second because they have succeeded in drowning theirs.” – St. Thomas Aquinas
Hope is a topic of great contemplation in my household this spring. Hope rode high the tidal wave of Easter morning this year and my heart was filled with the promise of Christ Risen! We are an Easter people after all!
Of course life has a way of challenging hope. This season has brought many changes and with them many losses for my family. What illness hasn’t stolen from those I love, time and circumstances have. To hope in the face of loss or failure as St. Thomas points out is no small thing, and I am neither young nor given to excess consumption of alcohol.
Humans seem to miss the gift of hope and instead focus on the despair or presumption that wall off our hearts to God. It is easy to despair of the good in the world especially when one’s efforts seem to fall like a grain of sand in the desert. Like Frodo lamenting his role as the ring bearer and the darkness of the age, we seem to get lost in the dark caverns of Moria without hope of seeing the light of day once more. In despair we forget the ever-moving hand of Providence that always “works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Many bible loving Christians like to quote Romans 8:28, while leaving out the last phrase. “Who are called according to His purpose?” Scripture here is referring to those who love God. This is not those who think God is a super cool guy, but those who do His will. Love here is a verb. This love is ordered toward God’s will and not our own. Presumption that our will and discernment is best, lays God’s purpose aside in service to the false god of our feeble plans and designs. This is destined to fail.
We cannot bring about our own salvation no matter how clever or sophisticated our arguments are for the sin we commit. We cannot work against God and presume his blessings. This is not how mercy works. In God’s mercy we find our greatest hope! It is false hope to assume that the life of grace remains in us when we continue to say no to God. Mercy follows repentance and this is true hope!
My 5-year-old son posed a question this morning at breakfast. He asked, “Mommy, what exactly is sin?” Son, keep asking the questions that will get you to heaven! If only more adults pondered this question, I thought. I replied, “Saying ‘no’ to God.” Oh, and how many ways we humans say no to God. Sadly, we say no to Love.
But there is reason yet for hope! The antidote for despair is faith. This is faith in God’s love and the ever present work of Providence for our good, even if that good is only to be experienced in the next life with Christ in heaven. We are pilgrims after all and heaven is our true destination.
The antidote for presumption that robs humanity of authentic hope (eternal life) is now settled as breakfast table conversation with a five-year old. Don’t say no to God. Only through Him and His will for our lives can we truly have hope for eternal joy.
So if the dark clouds have gathered in your world this spring, have hope! “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33