Forum: How we employ hope in our work toward what we hope for

When reaching goals takes time, do we use hope to sustain us or to redefine what we sought in the first place?

By Dan Hazen / Herald Forum

Part of my role as a pastor is to engage with people outside my faith stream.

In a recent interaction with a very smart, self-described “humanist,” the subject of evidence came up, specifically, evidence of the super-natural. My conversation partner asserts that there is no evidence for the supernatural, while I point to evidence that an observer may embrace or reject but is evidence none the less. We hit an intellectual roadblock here that detoured us on to the subject of hope.

My friend’s view requires that there is nothing beyond that which can be ascertained through physical observation and measurement. We agreed that by almost every observation and measure, the world looks bleak. One might say hopeless. I asked him, given this state of affairs, in the face of all this evidence, what keeps him going? Where does hope lie? He really couldn’t answer. The closest he got was something like an evolutionary impulse for life to continue. For him, hope (if it exists at all) is irrelevant.

I left our conversation wondering how hope works.

When you get to the end of hoping that work, achievement and success will bring you peace, you tend to dig deeper, employing hope elsewhere. When relationships fail and hope for happiness is gone, we go deeper in search of hope. It’s like digging for water in the desert: If you don’t find it after two feet, you dig three, then four. You just keep going down until you find it. You must find it to survive.

This water metaphor seems to support the evolutionary impulse idea, except that people don’t die without hope. They live on. For years, raising new generations who have no hope nor even the concept of it.

I’m wondering if the ills we face as a planet have to do with a massive dearth of hope. An intersection of hopelessness, unprecedented in human experience. Climate change, frankly, seems intractable. Division and violence are like a Whac-a-Mole game: pushed down here, popping up there, only to re-emerge here again. Politics is flatly bereft of hope, and cultural leaders (celebrities, church leaders, academics, etc.) are daily revealed to possess no character qualities in which a reasonable person should place their hope.

So, we’ve burrowed deeper into our own imaginations in search of hope, into the surreal, self-referential space where we shower dogs with love once reserved for children, where we devise new, ever-increasingly lurid ways to entertain ourselves as fast as the old ones lose their appeal. As hope continues to elude, we’ve taken to just re-defining it. Redefining success, love, justice, peace, truth and reality. We’ve moved the goal posts and exchanged anxious smiles as we celebrate our fake wins.

The emperor has no clothes, but there is no brave child to call it out anymore. And hope continues to fade.

Authentic hope is hard to come by. Not gone, but going the way of the salmon.

Yet, the fact that we persist (even with little hope of finding hope) indicates that hope must still exist, somewhere outside the systems from which we are desperately trying to wring it.

Said C.S. Lewis: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

It’s time to examine the evidence revealed from the modern and post-modern experiment of the past few hundred years; the theory that human power, flourishing and agency are the pinnacle of existence. It looks like they are not. Yet, hope still exists. It’s just bigger than our ability to distill and dissect it.

Dan Hazen is the community pastor at Allen Creek Community Church in Marysville.

Herald Forum

The Herald Forum invites community members to submit essays on topics of importance and interest to them. Essays typically are between 400 and 600 words in length, although exceptions for longer pieces can be made. To submit essays or for more information about the Herald Forum, write Herald Opinion editor Jon Bauer at jon.bauer@heraldnet.com or call him at 425-339-3466.

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