Problem with Hope

by gary-foote on August 8, 2011

“Just have hope.” How often have you said that phrase? How many times has someone said it to you? If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said or heard those words I could open my own youth ministry center and never have to charge for anything that I did. Wouldn’t that be cool? Well, unfortunately there hasn’t been any money connected with those words so I won’t be opening my own youth ministry center, yet…

 

The problem with hope is that as Catholic Christians we often times embrace the secular definition of hope and substitute that definition in our spiritual life. Merriam-Webster defines hope as “to cherish a desire with anticipation ” or “to expect with confidence.” As a Catholic youth speaker, I often hope that the message I am sharing with the youth pierces their hearts so that all that is left is their encounter with God. When I lead Catholic youth retreats, I hope that the teens come with an openness to allow God to do wonderful things in their lives. When I get on a plane to travel to speak at a Catholic youth conference, I hope that I get a window seat, and no one sits in the middle seat. All of these hopes are good desires (I admit the airplane seat one is totally selfish), but they leave something up to chance. Someone or something can diminish my hopes and what I expect to happen can quickly fade away leaving me disappointed.

 

Unfortunately, I have to admit that on too many occasions I’ve allowed myself to allow this definition of hope creep into my spiritual life. I’ll be the first to confess that I do not always know why God intervenes sometimes and other times He chooses not to. During these times when I don’t understand God’s decisions on what He does and doesn’t do, I often default to putting my “hope” in God, expecting the best possible outcome for a situation (according to what I think is best), and resolve to know that there is a “chance” that I will be disappointed. After all, isn’t hope “to expect with confidence?”

 

The problem with hope is that relying only on the secular definition can leave us in a place of despair when we don’t know what God is doing in our life or the lives of others. When we turn to the Sacred Scriptures and Catechism of the Catholic Church for a definition of hope, things change a bit. “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1817). The difference between the two definitions is this: humans can (and do) fail; God does not. When we “place our trust in Christ’s promises” we move from a place of “expecting with confidence” to “expecting with certainty.” There is no such thing as “chance” when it comes to God. Something either is or it is not.

 

Evil tries to lead us away from God and His faithfulness through that little crack of doubt that exists in the secular understanding of hope. If we think that by some chance God has or will abandon us, then our faith begins to diminish. God has made His decision about everything that will or will not happen in our lives. There is no such thing as chance for God. We have to make the decision whether or not our hope is or is not in God, there is no such thing as chance. It’s a difficult decision because it means that even when we do not understand why something in life is going the way that it is we still have to trust with certainty (not just expect with confidence) that God is in control of the situation and in the long run is allowing things to happen for our benefit because He loves us. That’s tough!!!! When there are challenges in our ministries, family members who become ill, loved ones who die, and problems with our finances, we have to trust that God is in control? Yes, and not just trust but be 100% confident that He is in control and desires what ever is happening to happen. The only caveat to that is that we must be in constant communication with Him through receiving the Sacraments, reading the Sacred Scriptures, and praying every day so that we can allow Him to guide our actions. If we are not in an intimate relationship with Him we may error on our own by acting outside of His will, putting our hope in ourselves, and once again entering “chance” back into the equation.

 

I know that for me that even writing this blog is difficult because it calls me to continually be 100% confident in God during the good and the bad times. But what better hope do I really have? After all the Sacred Scriptures tell us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

 

May God bless you in all that you do. Don’t ever lose hope.

 

In Christ,

Gary Foote

 

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Deni August 9, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Great post Gary. You are an amazing person. Love you.

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