If I asked you to describe 2020 in one word, what word would you choose? Pandemic? Chaos? Disappointment? Virtual? Social-distance? All of the above are apt descriptors for this merciless year but at least for me, they don’t quite capture it as succinctly as this one: powerlessness. I’ve felt incredibly powerless in the past ten months and to be totally honest, it’s not my favorite feeling.
I feel powerless to stop the virus. Powerless to protect my aging mom. Powerless to convince the politicians that we the people are the reason they’re D.C. Powerless about the success or failure of. And on and on it goes.
Of course, despite my feelings, I am rarely completely powerless. Feeling powerless and being powerless are two different things. Typically, we have agency over how we respond. I might not be an epidemiologist creating a vaccine but I can wear a mask, limit contact with non-family members, and follow other CDC guidelines. I can’t make the governmental leaders act sanely but I can vote and speak up when I see injustice. I can’t make anyone buy my book but I can diligently get the word out.
Hope plays a major role in seasons of powerlessness. This is tricky because powerlessness can breed hopelessness.
What we put our hope in matters. In fact, that choice sometimes determines the strength and longevity of our hope.
Those of us who follow Jesus are admonished to “.” In some seasons, it’s easier to sing about putting our hope in God than to actually put our hope in God.
Part of the challenge is that it may not be obvious what putting our hope in God actually means. We know we can’t control God and therefore should not expect him to serve us like a cosmic Santa. So what exactly are we hoping in?
First, it’s worth noting that though hope and faith are synergistic, they’re not the same. Faith refers to having a belief in someone or something. Hope is more of a mindset—a looking forward with eager anticipation.
Where faith grounds us, hope buoys us.
Having faith that God will never leave us and will never stop loving us should give us hope. Hope helps us believe that life will include something good or redemptive or beautiful. Hope helps us get out of bed in the morning.
Over the past ten months, I’ve spent more than a few hours pondering whether or not hope is a choice. Is it within our reach to choose hope* or is it predetermined by our genetics or our personality type? If the former, how can we choose hope when the morning news portends doom and disaster?
To some extent, it’s organic for each one of us. Since the time I was a child, beauty brings me hope, which is why I love being in nature. Things that are dependable—things that I can put my faith in—give me hope. Like the Holy Spirit’s presence and the sun coming up over the eastern seaboard each morning.
We’re now beginning to move toward spring with its longer, warmer days.
We’re in a season marked by waiting and hoping.
Of darkness yielding to the light.
May the Lord gently remind us that sometimes, choosing hope simply means turning toward the Light and lifting up our heads so that we might notice his nearness.
*For those who struggle with depression or other mental illnesses, simply choosing hope can be much more complicated or at times, impossible. Please know that on those days or in those seasons when you lack hope, it’s not your fault and there is help to be found within the medical and professional mental health community. Don’t hesitate to reach out; you are not alone.
All photographs ©DorothyGreco and may not be used without permission.