Growing Edges: Keeping Hope Alive: Radical Courage in Everyday Life Part 3

When an adult becomes hopeless, he loses his reason to keep on living, keep on trying, keep on loving.   It is hard to risk, take appropriate chances and pursue a dream or a calling if you lose hope.   It is hard to start over again when you have lost everything you have.

When an adult’s primary response to life is despair, he begins to wither up, become bitter and often die, either emotionally or literally.

How is it, then, that with the news of the economy in the most severe downward trend since the Great Depression and the corona virus taking more lives every day, we can live with any degree of hope?  What is to keep us from falling into despair, depression and disbelief in life, itself?

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If underneath all the external problems is a spiritual problem, which I happen to believe is true, then the first step back to keeping hope alive has to be to either re-engage or deepen whatever spiritual practice or discipline that is in your tradition.   If you feel powerless over life, then the next thing to do is to admit that  powerlessness as a confession, if you will, and then consider the possibility that a power greater than yourself can restore your life to you.

The third thing is to surrender the control of your will and your life to God, as you understand him.  Every day.  Or every hour.  And start over again when you feel yourself slipping back down into the pit of despondency or hopelessness.

In the language of my Twelve Step friends, “turn it over to God” and “let go (of the fear, confusion, anger, etc.) and let God” (help you).

In 2016, as I was working on my book Practicing Resurrection:  Radical Hope in Difficult Times, the outer world was in a new season of chaos and I was deeply worried about particularly hard personal issues.  At one point, I put my head in my hands and this thought rushed to the front of my mind:  How on earth can I write a book on hope when I have such disappointment and despair in my own life?

Instantly, I knew what I had to do.  It was as if my lament had been a prayer and the next thought was a nudge or an answer.   I knew that I must deepen my practice of Centering Prayer, the meditation practice taught by Fr. Thomas Keating and that I must look for signs of hope in the outer world every day.

Because I was in such a state of despair and because that inner guidance had come to me so immediately and forcefully, I began to follow that guidance.  Amazingly, as I did my part with my prayer practice, something or someone in the outer world  crossed my path every single day, giving me a reason to believe — believe in God’s love, God’s provision and God’s timing.  (I’m not saying that hope came alive in me all of a sudden; hope was restored by my doing what I knew best to do over and over.)

The most important thing I do every day to keep hope alive is to honor that directive to stay connected to God as I understand him and watch how some gift of beauty or wonder or awe crosses my path, reminding me that however awful things are or how wobbly my faith is on that day, God still holds the whole world in his hands.

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