Finding Hope

I have spent this week considering hope.

I began the journey of hope through this week’s devotional in Rueben Job’s book, “A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants”. Daily devotionals included scriptures and reflections that centered on hope. In The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann describes hope in this way: “Hope, on one hand, is an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts. Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion; and one does that only at great political and existential risk. On the other hand, hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretension of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question.”

At the same time, I have been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, “Between the World and Me”. This book is written to his 15 year old son, as a father’s description of what it means to live as an African-American man in the wake of slavery, segregation, and the continued killing of black people.

Coatehopedespairs is not an advocate of hope. In the opening pages of the book he warns against “reveling in a specious hope” and later speaks of the universal preference of “struggle over hope.”

My favorite theologian, Soren Kierkegaard calls the absence of hope a “sickness unto death”.

This week I have stood between voices of hope and what Kierkegaard would call despair.

Yesterday I brought this question to the Free Store worshiping community. I asked them, “Where do you find hope?” The following voices spoke as advocates of hope:

A newly employed man talked of finding hope in his work.
His wife said she was able to see hope everywhere.
An African-American man spoke of finding hope within himself.
A woman talked of the hope of Christ dwelling inside her.

How do we find hope in the midst of despair? Perhaps hope is not the opposite of struggle, as Coates describes, but hope comes out of the struggle that we call faith. Not a simplistic faith that glosses over trouble, but dares to hope in its wake. A community who has the conviction to hope in the midst of poverty, violence, and injustice has something to teach all of us about the meaning of faith. A faith, that Paul describes to the Hebrews as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.


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