Hope vs. Despair

In the mid-1980s, I pastored a small church in Jacksonville, Florida. It was a mostly lesbian and gay congregation whose little building was firebombed three times. The first, and the worst, happened before I arrived, and, by the time I arrived, the tiny group had been diminished even further. The church rallied eventually and even outgrew that building, but there were some difficult and depressing days that left me fantasizing about better days in a better place. I meant that in terms of my career, but I suppose there was a larger concept, too.

Hope can keep the light in our souls on even when the times seem dark. In those moments, it is important to remember that, for a Christian, hope is rooted and grounded in faith. That is to say it is something we hold to and believe in and trust our lives to when we have absolutely no proof. If facts were the basis for our hope we might call it optimism because hope is a product of faith.

Hope is taking a positive posture despite the facts. It is trusting (faith) when we can’t prove any of it, but believe anyway. Because we don’t have facts, we are, on occasion, simply wrong. In the end things don’t turn out like we hoped they would. Of course, when we think we have all the facts that sometimes is true, too.

Still, when given the choice between hope and despair, it is a fact that hope is the attitude most likely to support, encourage, and even create a positive outcome. Despair energizes only the things we fear.

Although I was only in my 20s when I served that small church in Jacksonville, I still knew one thing, and, in the end, that one thing was enough. As a congregation, we had to keep hope alive because giving in to despair would kill the church, even when the bigoted bombers could not.

When we gathered to paint after the third bombing, we gave the church a new name and a new mission, and the Spirit suddenly seemed to do the rest. Resurrection happens at the corner of hope and faith.

by Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal

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