06 Jun Hope Grounded in the Eternal
A mass shooting in Virginia Beach, leaving twelve people dead. A Catholic bishop spending millions of the church’s dollars on an extravagant lifestyle. A heat wave in India recording eye-popping 120-degree temperatures. A proposal to discontinue funding for educational and physical activity programs for unaccompanied minors at the border. Floods and tornados across the Midwest wreaking havoc as rivers crest at record-setting levels, roads are closed, farmers can’t get their crops planted, and lives are lost in storms and rushing waters. As for political headlines, well, take your pick.
To these national and international headlines, we could also add news of our own: a 9-year old nephew diagnosed with leukemia, a lay-off, being declined by the admissions office, a loved one struggling with depression, financial worries.
Last week I was on vacation, but the news never takes a break, does it? Life is chronic one of my mentors once said, and a truer, more succinct quip has rarely been spoken. So, what are we to do about it all? What are we to make of the endless barrage of bad news?
From a practical standpoint, I have put myself on a “media diet.” I am severely limiting my daily intake of headlines and news, opinions and editorials. In its place, I am spending time focusing on more positive things, practices that feed my soul, or nourish me in body, mind, or spirit. I have noticed a significant improvement in my mood and outlook without the constant negativity which is a valuable reminder of the importance of consciously monitoring what we allow into our heads and hearts.
From a theological standpoint, there is nothing new about this week’s headlines. Evil has always been with us leading to violence, war, and one people subjugating another. Disease, death, and natural disasters are also part and parcel of the human condition. And, of course, people being people is, too. Greed, arrogance, and self-centeredness make their marks every day in our relationships with one another and in our use and abuse of the planet.
If all you have to hang on to in the midst of this maelstrom is an optimism that we are somehow getting better at this “being human” thing, you’re standing on very thin ice. It doesn’t take much more than a dose of reality for major cracks to appear. Which is why it is the theological perspective of hope that can speak so powerfully and profoundly into our lives when everything seems to be going sideways.
Genuine hope, unlike optimism, is grounded in the eternal, changeless character of God, rather than in the fickle nature of mortals. God’s limitless love, unfailing mercy, and infinite goodness are not subject to swings of emotion. God is not caught by surprise by today’s news reports—or the report from your doctor. God is always working towards redemption, wholeness, and freedom—at all times and in every situation. We may not be able to see that redemptive thread in our present circumstances, but we know it is there. And that gives us hope, and hope then inspires us to be actively engaged in God’s redemptive purposes. We take care of one another and the environment, sit with the ill and grieving, work for peace, provide food and medical services for those in war-torn places, offer education for boys and girls because these are not hopeless situations, but opportunities for us to make a difference.
We can each do something right now, right where we are. So, how will you offer hope to someone today?
Yours for the Kingdom,