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.
15 thoughts on “Hope Is Stupid”
Oh, wow, I did not see the metaphor with the pearl coming. It is beautiful. The horrible things in the world bother me a lot. I suppose I just need to be prepared to stand up for things that I think are right whenever it comes to it. On the other hand, there are systemic things that have to be changed in some political fashion – that I am not sure what to do about. Political movements seem to be not influenced by how I think things should be. But I can do what I can do – vote, be informed, help inform others, protest if needed. About the personal life of mine… At some point I had to change my thinking about what I hope for. I think that staying true to myself and to what God wants me to be (to be discovered through my entire life) and what He wants me to do are the two important things. Those two things are more important than my personal life, but objectively I do not think I was created for single living. But who knows? I do not. Two things that I keep in mind about my personal life are: first, what I imagine others have is not what they really have, so that takes care of being jealous of anybody’s great personal life – that’s all mirages created in my mind; secondly, after my Dad’s passing, I came to realize that I had been thinking way too much about the future. The future that we may not even have. Life is fleeting and if I am not true to myself now in this moment, then such a life is nothing but a drudgery. The present is too precious to waste on thinking about the future. Ny two cents! 🙂
Great thoughts, Olga!
Thought-provoking. Your thoughts remind me of Dr Martin Luther King’s last sermon:
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Thanks, Lisa. I thought of that sermon too as I was writing this.
I am so glad I read Kierkegaard’s _Works of Love_ a few years ago. When hope feels stupid, the first thing that pops into my head, without fail, is “Love hopes all things and yet is never put to shame.” –There will never, ever be any shame in hoping, no matter what happens. I don’t always *feel* the truth of it; I do feel ashamed, and more often than I wish were the case. But I am grateful for those words when they scroll through my head.
Loved the pearl metaphor at the end. Thanks for your reflection
I haven’t read that one. Kierkegaard has always been tough for me to wade through! That is a great quote. Thank you.
There is something pretty crazy about hope. It requires us to risk so much, and to be vulnerable. I am not sure if that makes hope crazy, or just plain maddening. I love the way you are pondering this, such good questions.
For the times when you do not want to hope, or it seems like too much of a risk. I hope there is kindness for yourself. It’s ok to not move straight from lament to hope.
Good words. Thank you.
When I read your header, it was like a kick in the stomach. Hopelessness, is most likely the #1 reason people commit suicide. So…no, hope is not stupid. Faith, itself is hope for things not seen. Your journey thru this life, will have you shouting on the mountain top…when things are going great, and crying in the valley’s…when you can’t see past what is in your path.
No one, gets thru this life, without disappointments, and pain. There’s a fantastic song to sing sometimes..”..It’s my party, and I can cry, if I want to…”. And there is healing power in tears.
And yes, this is a “seriously screwed up world”. But…you are the pebble, that has been tossed into the ocean….and you made a ripple happen…and that ripple will continue till it meets the shore. And even when the pebble lands on the bottom, it creates a stir. Which in itself creates a cascading event. Such, is our lives.
Sometimes, God answers our prayers, by saying no. Because………he has something better for you. God’s timing is perfect. Just believe. Psalm 27:14 14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
I am not sure about “better”. “Better” is a relative term. There are many examples of some people’s lives going from bad to worse. But of course anything is redeemable. And bad and the worst situations are redeemable too. But “better” to me is a discouraging term. Maybe “different”, but not “better” in the way one expects it to be better.
This reminded me of the story in Mark 9 about the father who asked Jesus, if he was able, to cast the demon out of his young son because the disciples had been unable to do so. Jesus turns to the father and said, “If I am able?” Hope against hope, the father replies to Jesus, “Lord, I believe, but help me with my unbelief!”
We become desperate for provision, for relationship, for healing because we cannot hear God’s response to our prayers, or because His timing is different from our own. We give up hope of answered prayers because we’ve forgotten the sound of His voice. We overlook the fact that we can we can pray for Him to help us with our doubt and lack of hope.
Let that small amount of hope continue to irritate you. Keep praying that small prayer. He will increase it and turn that irritation into the beautiful pearl you cannot yet see but deep down expect.
I think we feel hopes are unfulfilled when we feel stuck. One solution may be to revise what one is hoping for, or hope for something completely different. For example, I hoped for a long time that serving a congregation would be my way to spread spiritual well-being. By and large it wasn’t, so I turned to hospice chaplaincy and to writing. What new direction may God be calling you to?
Why even try. You won’t see it until heaven but guess what everyone who believes gets to go to heaven. Doesn’t make any sense what happens down here. So stupid. I’m fed up and done with this
I’m sorry you’re feeling that way right now, Jonathan. I’ve been at the point where I’m fed up plenty of times. Praying that you can get to a more positive place soon. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. You’re not alone.
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