It’s rare to find hope in the midst of despair, especially as despair seems prevalent everywhere in our day. Teenagers committing suicide, doctors prescribing suicide, mass shootings, and terrorist attacks; the deliberate death of another is even seen as a solution to desperate women who are facing unwanted pregnancies.
Watching the news can be depressing, no matter what channel you tune into on television or videos you catch on the internet. Even reading the comments of friends on social media can bring us down, as everyone — from politicians to our cousins — point out what’s wrong in the world, belittle and demean people with whom they disagree, and generally find entertainment in the insulting of others. Sometimes, we ourselves are guilty of this downing, this name-calling, this complaining, this language of despair.
And what are we offered for hope? What is our hope?
Yes, there are some positive news stories about strangers helping strangers in need, and there are adorable videos about rescued animals, but these do little to assuage the real cruelty in the world, the sense of loneliness, loss, and pointlessness. Is the point of life to feel happy? What happens, then, when we don’t feel happy? Should we do whatever we want to get that feeling, no matter who gets hurt? Should we just despair of life itself?
Turning on each other is not the way to find hope in the midst of despair.
Turning in on ourselves is also not the answer.
Self-centeredness is what causes isolation, rancor, waywardness, and violence.
So, enough from me about pointing out what’s wrong! Love, of course, is the answer, is the way, is the hope in the midst of despair.
Loving one another, with compassion, generously, mercifully, is how despair decreases in our world. My physical situation is one that can definitely lead to despair. I have been brought down very low in thinking about the severe limitations of my progressively disabling disease and fearing for the future. It is love that saves me. The love of my family and friends who are there for me whenever I am in need, and beyond this fearfully limited love, dependent upon many conditions of health and situation, is eternal love, true love. And true love is not self-centered, not about what’s in it for me, but God-centered — centered in love for the Other.
I’m writing this on Gaudete Sunday — Joy Sunday — when Christians are reminded to rejoice. Rejoice always.
We are sad and lonely. Rejoice!
We are tired and in pain. Rejoice!
We are confused and afraid. Rejoice!
Rejoice, for we are living in Christ Jesus, Infinite and Eternal God made flesh. God chose to be as seemingly insignificant as an embryo, as helpless as a newborn, as anxious and afraid as a person in agony, as hated as a criminal, and as dead as a murder victim. God choose to live as one of us and experience all of these things, because God loves us and wants to be intimately united with us always and everywhere — when we are sorrowing and lonesome, fatigued and in agony, misunderstood and dreading the future. In our despair, Christ is there, with us and within us, suffering with us and loving us exquisitely, excruciatingly, without end. The All-powerful Creator of the universe was born into our hurting world to share in our humanity and bring us powerfully, profoundly into His divinity — to make us one with God.
Sometimes, it feels like there’s nothing that we can do to make all of the bad things go away in this world. Well… there isn’t anything that you and I can do individually or collectively. But this is no cause for all-consuming despair. Why not? Because there is hope.
The one thing that you and I as human beings can do is love. We can love another more than ourselves. We can give ourselves to others in self-sacrificing love. We can lighten the loads of the heavily burdened, comfort the suffering, visit the lonely, feed the hungry, house the homeless, and encourage the wayward to the good, the true, and beautiful. Remembering, all the while, that these acts are not enough to dispel despair. The actions that we take are good but not everything. There will always be impoverished people, grieving people, hate-filled people, suffering people in the world that we cannot reach. People who will not be helped here and now by our loving actions. Yet, even this is not ultimate despair because our little acts of love are sourced in greater love, infinite and eternal love, the love that brought us all into being in the first place. We are only able to love at all because God first loved us. And this terribly beautiful world, this limited and suffering world, in which we live is passing, is transitional.
Love is eternal.
Whenever we can feed and shelter someone in love, whenever we can open someone’s mind and heart to love, we are giving them a taste of eternity. We care for the body, but if we stop there then we deny the person’s deepest and most profound reality. No amount of checks that we write to charity or welfare laws that we pass will ever be sufficient to combat despair and fill people with hope. Only love, divine love, immortal love that has no limit and no end, can clothe, sustain, and satisfy the entire person, thus pulling them out of despair and showing them, submerging them in the light in the midst of darkness.
We are little, but our human love, given in our little and even great acts of love, is the outpouring of divine love through us. We become an integral part of something infinitely greater than ourselves. We remind ourselves and everyone who encounters us that we are sourced and ultimately sustained in God’s love, which we can only know in part here, but which lives in glory forever.
That is the eternal perspective of our human reality.
And that is our hope. Our greatest hope. Our only hope. The hope that allows us to love freely and not fall into despair.
© 2021 Christina Chase
PS. Sorry if this is a bit long and rambling! I’m rusty in my weekly writings, as proven by the lateness of this post. Happy Advent!
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.