Twelve Roadmaps to Spiritual Renewal (1): Never, Ever Lose Hope
Never, Ever Lose Hope
For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.
If there is hope that a tree, cut down for timber or thinned for fire safety, can sprout again and send out fresh green shoots, then there must be hope for us.
Let’s face it, we are like these trees: cut down by grief, by betrayed trust, by dashed expectations.
At times we feel so hopeless that we wonder if the hope we once had is lost forever. Will it ever spring eternal again?
The apostle Paul, whose teaching came under vicious attack more times that he could count, witnesses to what it means to maintain hope despite the temptation to hopelessness. The grace to persevere in his mission does not come from him but from God. For this reason he declares: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Cor 4:8-9).
Hope does not die in the apostle’s heart because he knows that his destiny is to live in the presence of the Lord forever. His hope rests not in passing expressions of power or pleasures or possessions but in “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…” (1 Cor 2:9).
Jesus never lost hope, not when he underwent the scourging at the pillar, the crowning of thorns, the carrying of the cross. Why is it, then, that we struggle against the demon of despair more often than we might like to admit?
The “D’s” of depreciation haunt us: discouragement, depression, disgust, and the thought of death. It is hard when we feel hopeless not to become irritable, numb to any sign of empathy, chilled to the bone by the dread of failure.
Only slowly may we see signs of renewed hope: in those first blooms of spring after a harsh winter; in the face of an innocent child; in the gentle passing into the night of a parent we loved. Sorrow has run its course. We feel more patient with the passing of time. We renew our trust in the providence of God.
In these and many other ways—if we remain vigilant—we can experience the rebirth of hope. With it comes a renewed awareness that God will never abandon us. We are not meant by God to be orphaned. How hopeful it is to know that the Lord will be with us always.
Hope banishes uncertainty and counters fear. It keeps us from becoming complacent. It represents for us believers an act of supreme confidence in Christ, the “hope of glory” (Col 1:27).
We do not hope in the possible, which may be under human control, but in the impossible, which falls under the providential plan of God.
Hope encourages us to dream our dreams while reminding us that only with God’s help can we put lasting foundations under them.
With this conversion to hope comes an increase of love, along with the conviction that the light shining in the darkness will not be overcome, no matter how severe attacks of hopelessness may be.
For the American poet, Emily Dickinson hope “is a thing with feathers.” It cannot be drowned by cloudbursts of despair because it “perches in the soul.” God himself placed this virtue in our deepest interiority and, therefore, with the poet we can say that it “never stops at all.” It does spring eternal, however many forces tend to erode it over time.
Such is the hope that saves us from being weighed down by momentary tribulations. Hope brought to full bloom by our beloved Lord never perishes, spoils, or fades.
The midnight moments of loss are as nothing compared to the dawn of redemption.
The choice is ours: to see life as meaningless or to view all that we are and do as meaningful and never, ever, to lose hope.