Practices From the Inside Out: Climbing Toward Hope

Practices From the Inside Out: Climbing Toward Hope February 23, 2021

Practices From the Inside Out: Climbing Toward Hope

Climbing Toward Hope

There are times when we find ourselves in a deep hole, like a well, where we need to be climbing toward hope.

Many of us do not remember how we got into our holes or how we can get out. All we know to do is push off from the bottom and try climbing.

We look over heads and, if we are fortunate, we can see the light of hope. Our struggle is not about being lost or not knowing which direction to go. We are climbing toward hope even when we grow tired.

Some of us experience our struggle as an individual effort. We are on our own, making our own way. Others of us sense we are sharing the struggle, climbing together toward a common goal.

The last year has been a discouraging one. Each day has felt like an urgent climb. Each night we risk sliding back down to the bottom.

We are fighting an uphill battle with consequences of life and death. While we might not know how we got here or who is responsible, we know it is crucial we climb out.

Some of us think we might be better off trying to dig our way out, or waiting for help to arrive.

It does not feel like anyone is coming to lift us out.

Is this a test of some kind? Are we being punished for something we did or failed to do? Why are we here and how long have we been in this hole?

This is a long, slow, difficult climb. Sometimes we lose sight of the hope at the end of our hole. Each day we struggle to climb out of the hole exhausts and weakens us.

Will we be able to make it out of this hole?

Are We Climbing Toward Hope?

When we are stuck in a deep hole everything seems to work against us. There is only one way we want to go, which is out of the hole, and obstacles pile up to keep us in.

Climbing toward hope is hard work. It can be easy for us to become tired and discouraged. If we cannot get ourselves out right away we start to feel uncomfortable and anxious and afraid.

We start trying to reason our way out of the hole, asking ourselves questions for which we do not have answers.

Who dug this hole and put us in it? Why did they do it? What were they trying to accomplish? Are they going to come back and get us out? How long will they leave us here?

Some of us take stock of what tools we have to continue climbing toward hope. We hope we have the right clothes and the proper shoes for climbing. The things we usually carry with us will probably not do us much good.

Our cellphone might help, but there is probably not very good coverage in a deep hole. It will not help us climb.

I know people who experience being stuck in a hole as a competition which they want to win it. They are reluctant to admit, even to themselves, they might need help to get out of their hole.

Being in a deep hole is not only about getting yourself out, it is about getting out faster and more easily than everyone else. They want to extricate themselves before anyone else notices they are stuck.

Climbing toward hope is not about competing against other people. It is not solely an intellectual or emotional struggle.

How Are We Climbing Toward Hope?

Several things fit together into the challenge of climbing toward hope for me.

For one thing, contemplative practices have helped me appreciate how I put myself in these deep holes. I do not see a powerful outside force which tests or imprisons me, or is coming back to release me. The deepest holes in which I find myself are holes I dug myself.

I have also begun to understand climbing toward hope is not a competitive sport. Life is not all about living without challenges or deep holes. Needing to climb toward hope does not make us weak or hopeless.

Climbing toward hope makes us human.

The holes in which we find ourselves are features of the journeys we are following. Some of us dig deeper holes for ourselves than others do.

Our journey is about recognizing where we are and climbing toward hope. While some of us will face larger challenges than others, each of us will face our own.

The journey is not about going as far or as fast as we can without needing anyone else. We share the same path, even when we are going in opposite directions.

All of us are climbing toward hope, just starting from different places.

As We Are Climbing Toward Hope

Spiritual life is about finding ourselves in deep holes and climbing toward hope.

Some of us assume our spiritual journey will be gentle, meek, and mild as we amble toward God. It might be because I am unusually stubborn or obstinate, but in my experience spiritual life does not work that way.

It is easy for me to lose sight of hope. Maybe I am stuck in a hole so deep clouds cover it and block out the hope.

One of the challenges for me is to continue climbing when I know the direction but do not actually recognize hope.

For me, it is often the people with whom I share the journey, my companions, who keep me going. I depend on their encouragement and guidance, their insights and humor to keep me hanging on.

It is easy for us to get discouraged as we are climbing toward hope. Our anxieties and fears, our fatigue and expectations slow us down. We keep each other going.

We are climbing toward hope each day, each step of the journey.

How are we climbing toward hope today?

Where are we climbing toward hope together this week?

[Image by gagilas]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is


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