Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hope

Today's sermon at church was on the hope we have in the resurrection of Christ. Our preacher made a comment along the lines of "if you are without hope, then something is wrong with your thought process. The answers you've found to your questions are obviously wrong." Really? Does hope=truth? Hope certainly feels better than hopelessness, but can any conclusions be drawn about its veracity?

I understand that many times we despair when there actually is a way out of some dark place in which we find ourselves. I know it's my job as a therapist to maintain hope for my clients when they can't feel it for themselves and to help them see a way through difficult times. However, I also know what hope in impossible dreams, half-baked plans, and uncontrollable events looks like too. It can be catastrophic to one's faith, sense of self, and trust in others when what is hoped for does not become reality. People quit believing in God when prayers aren't answered. They waste time on relationships that will never work. They put their hopes in a career they just don't have the aptitude for. Hope may be what propels us forward and enables us to persevere, but I don't think it can be used as an indicator for truth. In fact, sometimes, we may be closer at the truth when we are less than hopeful. Therapy isn't always about tears, deep dark secrets, and painful insights. There's also laughter, encouragement, and rejoicing in triumphs. However, it's often easier to help individuals make significant changes in their lives when they come to my office with a sober appraisal of their situation. When they float in on cloud nine, like an engaged couple completely infatuated with each other, they are often so filled with hope (and hormones) that they see no potential problems to address.

My faith doesn't offer a great deal of hope to me right now. I don't know what I think of the resurrection of Christ or of eternal life. I don't have a clear sense of that Christian hope my preacher described. However, I can't say I feel particularly hopeless either. What do you think? Should feelings of hopefulness or hopelessness be an indicator of the truth of our beliefs?

3 comments:

  1. I think being content is a much more fulfilling goal than being hopeful. I spent most of my life thinking that I would finally "get over" my doubts and had high hopes for reading books, but I've been so disillusioned with Christian apologetics and their claim to truth...so now I'm learning to just be content with the way things are.

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  2. I agree with the general concept of hope. As humans we are ingrained to desire “better”—an improvement from our current situation. A better salary, more full-filling relationships, better health, etc.

    What we have to be careful, though, is allowing that hope to bias our perceptions. For example, we can all remember our friends “being in love” with some person while in High school. A person out of their league. This is certainly laudable, but we also remember how they can misinterpret a glance at the locker, or a “Thank you” in the hall as being, “See? See how they like me?”

    Or worse, how the hope for a good relationship can cause a person to excuse the other’s behavior (“He only hits me because I deserve it”) when there is no excuse.

    I, too, hope for an afterlife. I would like ultimate justice—like to see family and friends who have died. Like to live in the Wonka Chocolate Factory for ever and ever and ever. I, too, would like the answers to problems that vex us. But simply because I desire these things—even hope for them—does not equate to proof they are true.

    In fact, the very desire itself should temper my willingness to argue for it by recognizing the bias instilled by the desire.

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  3. I agree, the desire or magnitude of our hope does not bear any connection about the veracity of what is hoped for. If anything, the hope can cloud our perspective to know what is true or not (as noted in comment above). I really dislike the way hope can be used as something of an apologetic for the object of the desire being true.

    I've seen the argument that hope is so necessary that it is better to believe in something than disbelieve. Maybe that can be true, but maybe some people have more ability than others to suppress evidences against what they hope for, in order to maintain their belief. I try to be careful about taking a soap box to declare that it is morally superior to only go with the hard, cold facts, but I think that is naturally more how my mind works, more so as I get older. I think...

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