Hope helps us survive life’s horrors

Published 4:11 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2023

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Flowers are blooming. Spring is in the air. Life is bursting forth all around. But there’s death, too. There’s death in the air and the water.  There’s death in the headlines of news sources the world over.

What a strange thing, human existence. We can move through life with power and majesty only to be killed by something random. A flat tire gives way to a grim crash. A bee sting turns into a fatal reaction when someone didn’t even know they were allergic. An angry man with a gun shoots you for simply asking him to be quiet.

Hope helps us survive life’s horrors

How can we experience all the wondrous life around us when we also see so much death? How can we enjoy the beauty of the world when we are constantly reminded of how we hurt and abuse one another?

Here’s the best answer I have: I’m not entirely sure.

I wrestle every day with this harrowing reality, and people look to me for guidance and insight as to how they can experience life amidst the ruins of the world. Yet, even still, I’m not entirely sure how to navigate these opposing realities because I haven’t reconciled them within myself. It’s spring, yes. In my church, the Great 50 Days of Easter are still upon us. But my soul hurts for all the pain and anguish I am seeing around me, the country, and the world.

My soul hurts, and it’s heavy. I feel the weight growing still, growing more and more as every new day brings some horrifying headline to our attention. It’s easy to shrink back from the world’s horror as we attempt to shield ourselves from the pain of others. Sometimes, the pain within is too much to bear, and it becomes almost impossible to reach out to tend to the pain of others. Then, when we see the world’s horror and look at ourselves in the mirror, feelings of guilt and shame spring upon us as we judge ourselves for our inaction. The cycle then repeats, over and over again, until we are ultimately numb to the pain of others and the pain within.

This is no way to live. These cycles keep taking from us. All that death steals our joy and our sense of safety and security. It’s hard to enjoy life when it feels like death’s suffocating shroud is being pulled more tightly over our faces, so tightly that we forget to look for the signs of life stubbornly refusing to succumb to death’s tyranny.

In these moments, when it feels like death is all we see, there must be some among us who will hold onto hope for us, who will stubbornly refuse to be held captive by a force that seeks only our destruction. Maybe that is you right now. Perhaps you’ve been the one holding onto your light and sharing it with others. Perhaps you’ve been the one stubbornly refusing to believe that the world will never move past its worst evils. Maybe you’ve been that source of hope for those around you.

Let’s be real, though. Hope doesn’t actually save anybody. Hope can’t stop that tire from popping or that bee from stinging. Hope can’t stop a crazed man with a gun.

Thankfully, the value of hope isn’t found in what it actually accomplishes. Instead, hope is the stubborn refusal to believe all the world’s gloom must have the final word. Hope fuels our actions, and reactions, to that horror as we stand bravely in its face and say, “The worst you have to bring has not, and will not, break me.”

Hope fuels us to do the next right thing, one action at a time. Hope fuels us as we sit with grieving parents and cancer-ridden patients. Hope is that energy felt between two people amid their heartache who say to one another, “I will not let you fall into despair.”

Sometimes, when we don’t see enough life around us or enough hope within our communities, we have to decide if we will let things stay that way. I wish I had answers to all of life’s most difficult questions. I don’t. But I do know this: the worst thing to ever happen to you has not broken you. If you are reading this, you have survived the worst that’s ever happened. Indeed, you must have some hope within you somewhere. Will you share it with us?

Chris Adams is the Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.