If there is any value-added from the holiday season we are entering, at least any that extends beyond the champagne glass on New Year’s Eve, the most likely candidate is hope. But hope is a troublesome commodity: it has no physical component, appears and disappears on a dime, and it can come from many sources – reputable and otherwise! How have we come to put so much stock in this attribute?
Let me elaborate: while kicked around by history, current events, crises, circumstances, accidents, and miracles, it does not consist in any of the above. In fact, it’s really all in the mind. You and I can look at the same set of occurrences, experience the same trials or elations, and one of us can be filled with hope and the other be devoid of it. And it changes virtually nothing on the ground: it does not alter what actually happened in the least. If the stock market crashes, it crashes, whether I hope or not.
So why do we hope? Why does it matter? Why do we crave it every year at this time? In short, because we can live on hope. Hope can get usup in the morning. Hope can drive usto work our tails off even when the gain seems minimal. Hope can make usinvest in a loved one even when they have wholeheartedly rejected us. Hope changes us. That’s why it is so valuable.
Now of course the catch is that hope does not have its own engine; it must be driven by something externally. I don’t hope the pandemic will end just because I want it to end. No, I hope because a vaccine is being developed, I hope because we keep learning more about this virus, I hope because a leader I trust seems to know what they are talking about. Or I hope because I have come to believe some unforeseen Higher Power won’t abandon us. That is, I came to believe that a set of circumstances in the past was not random but actually orchestrated to some degree by an Almighty Hand that had my best interest or the best interests of the world in mind. Therefore, I hope.
Hope is fickle. Hope can be fleeting. Hope is hard to pin down. But don’t give up on hope. Hope has power, abstract as it may be. Hope can carry you. It can carry us through a pandemic, through a presidential transition, through the BLM movement, through any and all circumstances.
No, the question is not: do I need hope? Of course you need hope. We all do. The question is: what have you placed your hope in? And how much hope does this source provide?
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God. (Ps. 42: 5)