FINDING HOPE IN THE MIDST OF LIFE’S CHALLENGES: How do we do it?
Sister Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican
In recent times, I have heard the question: “Where is God in the midst of all this mess?” In the daily news we hear ongoing stories of the global economic meltdown and thousands of people losing their homes, their jobs and benefits, and banks that have failed and there is no quick fix for the local, national or global situation. In addition to all the poverty issues, we have natural disaster around the country and the world. The most recent one that has captured the attention of the global community is the massive earthquake in Haiti that took the lives of hundred of thousands of people and left many more that are desperately in need and are suffering in a land that is among the poorest in the world.
How can we have hope in a time of decline and chaos? As we journey through life, we can expect many challenges and struggles. Often I meet people with shattered dreams and plans gone awry. The responses of individuals and groups in each situation are unique. With the situation in Haiti, it was heartwarming to see how the world responded to the unimaginable needs of the people there. People of different backgrounds, cultures, color and creed are working together to bring a humanitarian and compassionate response. Even some of the most devastated were meeting out on the street and praying, giving thanks for the blessings they still had.
Chaos can have profound meaning that leads to a deeper search. Creativity can come out of chaos such as job loss, natural disasters and failing health. If we only focus on the problem, the result is we will intensify the pain and become engulfed in fear, anger and doubt. I recall the story of Peter walking on water to go and meet Jesus. When he looked down and saw the waves, he began to sink. When he looked up and kept his eyes on Jesus, he arrived safely at his destination. Choosing hope is the only way to go. Our hope is based on our faith in God, not in a God out there or up there somewhere but a God right here in the midst of the pain and struggle, who promises to be with us at all times.This approach is not a cop-out or avoidance of the problem. It is the ground of our hope in the unfailing promise of our God.
In answer to the question often asked, “Where is God in this mess?” my answer is still similar to the one I gave when I worked as a chaplain at the hospital when I was called to attend to a mother who had just lost her baby: “I believe God is right here with you, weeping with you, holding you and giving you comfort and strength and calling me to be the compassionate face of God in a time of need..” God does not impose suffering
on the human family. God helps us face it and walk through it. We recall Jesus in his time of suffering: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup of suffering pass from me, but not my will but your will be done.”
What can we do to bring hope to people in great distress?
•We can be with people in their pain and suffering, listening to their needs and walking with them in their time of grief or loss. Faith communities can gather people around certain issues and needs and come up with some ways to respond to the need.
•This is a time to evaluate the moral and ethical dimensions of our economic and political life and discern what “option for the poor” that we have been talking about for decades really means. How can we respond creatively and take some actions with the common good in mind?
•There is a call to re-root ourselves in God whose supply of mercy, forgiveness and compassion will never go bankrupt. The hopelessness that we see need not be a disaster. It offers us an opportunity to develop a genuine trust and hope in a God who really cares.
•We are invited to a revolution in our values that calls us away from materialism, militarism and a sense of superiority to create communities of love, compassion and peace.
•Hope comes with a price. It is more than looking at a wish list. It means expecting that God’s loving providence will see us through good times and challenging times and calls us to a compassionate and loving response.
•We can share words of hope and encouragement especially with those most in need.
•People of any age, color, creed or condition can join in the response. No response in too small or insignificant to make a difference. Small things done with great love can contribute greatly to a deep sense of hope. There is no limit to what God can accomplish through our efforts.
•Often the darkest hour is before the dawn. Look for signs of hope in unexpected places and share that hope with all in need.
With God’s help we can move mountains and bring light to a darkened world. We are as small as our fears and our despair and as large as our courage and hope.
We cannot afford to become bitter or angry when we face life’s difficulties. That will only add to the pain and suffering. When we pray for others who are suffering, we bring them into the embrace of God. We can mingle our own tears with the tears of the hurting people and the tears of God and bring healing and hope to the broken and bleeding of our time. We journey through suffering into the glory of our God.
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