An old friend of mine who is patiently muscling through the adoption process sent me a link to one of the NYT's Modern Love columns recently. The woman who wrote this column has lost multiple babies in failed pregnancies and is now standing with handfuls, closet-fulls, a home full of grief that seems to have no outlet in our culture. Below is a blurb from her article:
"Conventional wisdom tells us that hope is a good thing. Hope is what gets us through difficulty. But over these years I’ve come to realize that hope is sometimes slow torture. When hope keeps you anxious and bitter and stuck in some fantasy of the perfect nuclear family, then maybe hope isn’t what you need anymore. Maybe the most hopeful action one could take would be to abandon hope altogether.
Turns out I’m not alone in thinking this. When The New York Times Magazine recently published its list of the most innovative ideas of 2007, I got some satisfaction out of the inclusion of a study claiming that in certain cases hope can be an obstacle to emotional recovery."
I am a person who hopes a lot. In fact, much of who I am is built on the hope that God is in fact God. As I'm writing this, I'm thinking of hope and faith as alike and wonder what the difference is. Both involve a confidence in what is not seen. Both involve a certain amount of trust, of powerlessness, of waiting, of wanting. Both involve risk.
...I just looked them up...
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof
1. the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best
So, hope is the sense or assurance that what we want will turn out for the best. And faith is a a trust in a person or a thing, a belief not based on proof. What becomes essential as we ask the writer's question of whether hope is worth giving up, is how we define the phrase "turn out for the best" in our definition of hope.
She talks about not needing a hope that "keeps you anxious and bitter and stuck in some fantasy," a hope that keeps you desperately fixated on a singular desire that may or may not be fulfilled. A hope like this is painful and full of risk because in it, "the best" easily becomes what we see as best, that thing that we most want.
When faith is involved, "the best" changes shape. Trust in a bigger purpose emerges. "The best" may actually turn out to be what we most dread and not at all what we hoped for, but the shock and pain of that fact is backed by assurance, the trust that the Greater is holding all the crumbly pieces, including our broken hearts, and that He is healing.