Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it is hard to hold onto hope? I know that at times this past year, I’ve felt overwhelmed with sadness and hopelessness when we’ve received a report that my grandfather’s treatments were not working. Sometimes, when I look at the suffering in our world or see the brokenness in a person or system, I can feel this same kind of despair that at times can make me feel almost paralyzed.
Honestly, when that feeling of hopelessness hits, it can sometimes linger longer than I like. When I find myself in a moment like this, I lean on St. Ignatius’ wisdom of “agere contra,” which means to work against, or do the opposite. So when I am feeling hopeless, I try my best to act against my hopelessness by nurturing hope.
Let’s look at a few ways we can nurture hope, now.
Ways we can Nurture Hope:
- Name who helps us hope: God acts through others. Who helps us hope? Who can help us on our journey? Jesus had people along the way who provided small elements of comfort: Simon, who helped Jesus carry his cross; Veronica, who wiped his face; and a slew of disciples, friends, and his mother, who were physically present as he endured his Passion. When we look at our lives, who are the people in our life that can help us act against our hopelessness?
- Lean on faith tools: Our faith traditions offer many tools to sustain us as we wait in hope. In my Catholic faith, gifts such as Mass and the sacraments offer nourishment, encouragement, and healing. Each of these can help nurture hope within us.
- Meditate on Scripture: What Scriptures provide us with strength, faith, and hope? What words do we need to hear as we remember the hope-filled promises of God? Reading these words can fill our spirits and increase our ability to hope. We can act against the hopelessness by filling our minds with words of faith, hope, and love.
- Look to examples of inspiring people: On days we are feeling hopeless, we can read stories or remember people who overcame hopeless situations. The witness they provide can give us the “oomph” we need to pull ourselves out of a moment of hopelessness.
- Build an arsenal of prayer methods: There is a rich history of prayer traditions in the Catholic faith. What are our go-to prayers that provide comfort and strength for the journey? Might it be the rosary? Or adoration? Are there rote prayers that offer us comfort and hope? We can name prayer methods we feel drawn to use in difficult times.
Prayer Anchors Us to Jesus:
Prayer provides an anchor for us when we feel hopeless. Spending time with God reminds us what matters most: the depth of God’s love, the gift of God’s mercy, the fact that we are not abandoned, the reality that our identity is in God and not in any circumstances of our lives, the fact that we are loved as we are and not deemed unworthy by anything we are facing. Prayer anchors us in the truths God has revealed to us. Prayer reminds us that God acts first.
It also acts as a compass, guiding us one step at a time to our next right step and helping us get through a minute, an hour, or a day at a time if need be. Prayer is our anchor to our dearest friend, Jesus, who helps us act against our hopelessness.
(parts of this post are adapted from Busy Lives & Restless Souls p. 99-100)
Tools and Resources for Support:
- Trying to Say God Conference at Notre Dame University – Panelist for “Platform Building and the Foundations of Humility”
- USCCB’s Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America – Lead Panelist for “Moments of Return: Sunday Mass, Holy Days, and Sacraments in Evangelization”