A Season of Stubborn Hope

posted in: Faith | 45

We feel our smallness when we consider the universe, unutterably vast, dark, and scattered. Whole swaths of space are empty while elsewhere galaxies drift through the void for eons of time before colliding with each other. Some stars go nova and incinerate the planets orbiting them, expending themselves in an explosion so powerful that our naked eyes can see it millions of light-years away. Cosmic dust coalesces and new stars are born while black holes swallow light itself. Here on our tiny terrestrial orb, circling a minor sun in a low-rent neighbourhood on the edge of the Milky Way, our telescopes watch as the cosmos accelerates away from us, growing ever colder and more distant. We are but a speck.

I imagine that for you too, this last week has been an especially dark one, rightsizing us once again in the face of such tragedy. The massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand. The crash of the Ethiopian Airlines flight. And I don’t know if this is happening in your life too, but so many people I care about are struggling with things they don’t deserve. It has been awful. And, in a flash, their tragedy shines on a rent in the fabric of space and time that separates us from each other. In our pain, we are all the same. And it is necessary and obvious to say that anything that could happen to them could happen to any of us.

We find that we must confront our fragility, and signs of our mortality are everywhere. As John Donne writes:

Death is in an old man’s door, he appears and tells him so, and death is at a young man’s back, and says nothing; age is a sickness, and youth is an ambush; and we need so many physicians as may make up a watch, and spy every inconvenience. There is scarce anything that hath not killed somebody; a hair, a feather hath done it; nay, that which is our best antidote against it hath done it; the best cordial hath been deadly poison.

And so, we search for sense and fairness in the rubble of shattered bodies that we see on television or in our own homes. We assume that because our pain is so personal, it must be personally meant, that there must be some inherent significance to the suffering, some lesson the universe is trying to teach us. But, no. Too often there is neither meaning nor order nor justice in that chunk of cancerous tissue, that patch of ice, or piece of faulty wiring. Everything can just… happen.

Lent is the right time to sit with these darker truths. This is the time to reflect on our limitations and to remind ourselves that none of us is immune to the universe. We are all one errant organ, limb, or joint away from losing that sense of freedom in our own bodies, and even the fittest of us inhabits a faulty body, designed to wear out and perish. From dust we were made.

Look, this is grim stuff. I get it. But this is the necessary antidote to the poison of our culture’s myth of perfectibility. We become too afraid to say the obvious: that things are not always getting better. And this fact should make us kinder to each other. As temporary creatures made of the same perishable material we should see in each other fellow pilgrims headed in the same direction, worthy of our concern, people with whom we should be more patient, slower to anger, quicker to help. How different are we really when we consider our lives and struggles and weaknesses?

Lent forces us to confront our disoriented mortality. And if you are already there, if Lent is where you live, this is a season of stubborn hope. I promise. It is the season where God sets a new horizon. A drama of ultimate importance is coming to a climax; there is a different kind of rent in the fabric of the universe and light will flash through the darkness to illuminate what everything was all about and what everything will come to mean. The light is coming. Our bodies are temporary, and so will be our suffering.

45 Responses

  1. Carol Clark -Yeomans

    Beautifully stated… love the “stubborn hope” concept and the “light is coming” truth. Thank you, Kate!

  2. Mary Beth Stanley

    You are speaking directly into my pain this morning, and giving me direction I am seeking. Stubborn hope. The light is coming. Amen.

  3. Marguerite

    “Our bodies are temporary, and so will be our suffering.” Such a difficult, but beautiful thought. Thank you!

  4. Kathleen

    When our kids were little and they asked us why bad things happen, we’d always told them that God made the laws of nature and the world and our bodies go along with what He set in motion. But there is always hope, stubborn or otherwise. As the saying goes, “No one gets out of here alive.”

    • June

      How beautifully stated, “Our bodies are temporary and so will be our suffering “. Thank you.

  5. sharon Hamilton

    As Easter is the promise of new beginnings, and so it is each day as the sun rises, we begin again. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    For your always centered and grounded view of what is real and what is important.

    And for sharing your journey, your life and your love with us.

  6. deborah suess

    Such a jarring and helpful and hopeful way to consider … things sometimes just happen… into Lent with hope we go.

  7. Joannie

    A beautiful perception of our purpose here on eart in terms of our physical self. Yes, our eternal purpose is to praise God every moment of our lives! And for eternity! But we cannot presume to be able to be “perfect” or “in control” of anything. Lent is a good time to release those things and simply praise God for giving us Jesus.

  8. Kathy

    “The light is coming. Our bodies are temporary, and so will be our suffering.”
    This line in particular has brought tears to my eyes. I must have needed o hear it.
    Many thanks and many blessings, Kate.

    • Debbie Prentice-Baron

      The light is coming……..Amen. Love and Blessings, Kate

  9. Marina McIntire

    Oh, this did come at the right point. I received some sort of devastating news yesterday and I am still staggering with it.
    Thank you, Kate.

  10. Claudia Peet

    When we are in darkness, light is our hope. Thank you for reminding us that we should be kinder to each other. We are all embarking on our own journeys, and to hold the hand of another is truly the greatest gift.

  11. Von Sica

    These are truths to inspire stubborn hope. We see suffering everyday… but giving one another a message of hope, a kind word or a good deed can make a difference.

  12. Alison

    I have no religious belief, but for me, this helps.

    Be still,
    Be calm,
    Be gentle,
    Be kind…

  13. carol

    Praise God for his goodness in the time of stress. Lord, quiet my mind .

  14. carol mattison

    Thank you for sharing your peace.We need it in this world of unrest and it can only be found in Gods Arms,

  15. Ronald Kunst

    Kate–thank you for your kind, calming words. Your voice is almost hypnotic for me! Aloha Ronald

  16. Ronald

    Kate–thank you for your kind, calming, insightful words!
    Aloha. Ronald

  17. Sara Irwin

    This reminds of of an idea I had the other day about Ash Wednesday. I have never been willing to participate in this ritual. It seems way too negative for me. But I read or heard something recently that helped me to think of the ashes/dust as stardust. I could totally do Ash Wednesday visualizing my forehead being marked with stardust. Too late for this year, but maybe next.

  18. Lysa

    I am not a particularly religious person but I have a friend who is an Episcopal priest. Years ago I was visiting him during Lent and was present for a sermon he gave about the concept of faith in struggle. I am reminded, more often than I wish, of his quiet statement as we moved towards the last few days of the season, “Today may be Friday but Sunday is coming”. In a very Friday kind of place these days, I am so comforted by the knowledge that Sunday does indeed, in some form, always come.

  19. Rhonda

    Thank you for your poignant messages and for being a point of light in this vast darkness. Indeed one out of one will die. Not many more fiery chariots on which to catch a ride; however, you not only speak of stubborn hope – your life exemplifies it. For that, we are all truly grateful. So many terrible things happen all over the world. People spew hatred and bullets, machines fail, accidents occur, and each day far too many receive calls
    with news that shatters their world. Sometimes life just whomps.
    Thank you for courageously sharing your stubborn hope and blazing a trail for others to follow! May God bless you!

  20. Lori

    As one thing after another rains down on my family, friends and the world, stubborn hope is what gets me through each moment. Looking toward the light…

  21. Kay Davis Schrudder

    Thank you for this. My husband is in hospice care at home. Some good and not so good days. Every now and then a bad moment. Like this morning and I prayed that today isn’t the day he dies. He’s a little better now. The sun is up. I’ve cried . And the light will come.

  22. Ed Richardson

    Add my thanks to the many, Ms. K. Jesus did make it clear that this present age is an all too real “war zone”…and war zones are not nice, friendly, safe. We all come through it with a limp and scars and PTSD. But he also tells us what’s ahead – new creation and new bodies. So, yes, these present bodies are temporary, as well as the suffering, but the best is yet to come…and it’s not pie-in-the-sky. T’is prime rib, sweet potatoes, and your favorite gelato. Yes, hold steady.

  23. Paul C.

    First, thank you for the article. Second, somehow, your words reminded me of what the Apostle Paul said, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. ” (NKJV 2 Cor 4:16) Paul goes on to say that the suffering he is experiencing was accomplishing what he calls “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” I think I need to study more to understand what Paul was saying.

    Bless you and thank you again.

  24. Kate Z.

    Kate, when I was diagnosed with cancer, someone I know gave me two “words from the Lord”. When she said I was “rebellious” and “insolent” I searched my heart for conviction, wondering if cancer was some kind of chastisement for past behavior.

    It wasn’t. Instead, God used those two words to mean something completely different.

    Rebellious Hope and Insolent Faith have become my mantras over the last year and a half. I have seen both of these sprout from what I thought was barren earth. Healing and redemption have come from the realization that I don’t have to earn it. My hope and faith are not tied to my circumstances or my health, they are stubbornly tied to a God who doesn’t change.

    Thank you for sharing your heart!

  25. Consuelo

    Lent is where I’ve been and where I have learned to hope. Thank you!

  26. Gloria

    Thank you so much for your words and inspiration. We are here for a brief moment in time. May we be thoughtful and kind to one another and remember from ‘whence we came and where we are going’
    Bless you!

  27. Chris

    Kate, your New York Times article was shared in my seminary course in the book of Job by my professor Dr. August Konkel. I was greatly impacted by your article, and your words in this article is especially timely in the Lent season as we look ahead to Easter wknd. Thank you!

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