I’ve always considered myself something of an optimist. But lately, it sure is hard to stay one. The other night, I had a very emotional conversation with my roommate, and she told me, “You can’t give up hope.” I blurted out, “But hope is stupid! You just keep wasting time hoping for things that never happen and then you feel like an idiot, and all the realists get to say they told you so.” I was, admittedly, in a pretty bad place, in the midst of all the terrible news in the world and a big disappointment in my personal life. Sometimes I just want to be miserable for a while and not have anyone try to talk me out of it.
But even though I was in that deciding-to-be-miserable place momentarily, I wonder if I do really believe what I said. It does feel foolish to hope when my hopes continue to be disappointed again and again and again. It wears on my soul. The past few days, my mind has been returning to a verse in the Bible that has always bothered me. In the middle of Hebrews 11, the “heroes of faith” chapter, is this heartbreaking sentence: “All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them.” Every time I read that verse, I think, They spent their whole lives hoping and believing in God’s promises, and they died without receiving them. That just sucks. And sometimes I think I know how they must have felt.
Like many of the psalmists, I find myself asking, “How long, O Lord?” I know I’m not alone in asking it. Plenty of us whisper or scream those words from the midst of our broken lives in this seriously screwed up world. The sad truth is that the answer may be, “Not for a really long time. Not in your lifetime. You may die without seeing the promises fulfilled.” And yeah, that sucks. So what do I do? Give up? Stop hoping and praying and trying to make things better? I guess I could. But I just don’t know if I have it in me. Hope is stubborn and tenacious, and I think that God put just enough inside me to keep irritating me — like a grain of sand in an oyster. That’s how pearls are made. Even if I never see the answers to my prayers, if my last breath still laments the promises unfulfilled, will something beautiful come of all this agonizing, stupid hope? I can’t say for sure. But, God, I hope so.