“Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. It is an orientation of the spirit and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. . . . It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
How many times a day do we need to remember these stunning words by Vaclav Havel?Havel – Czech playwright, poet, and political dissident, who, after the fall of communism, became president of Czechoslovakia (1989–92) and of the Czech Republic (1993–2003) – certainly had many opportunities to try make sense of something regardless of how it turned out.
We all have experiences that don’t turn out well. Why did my father (and many fathers) not return from World War II (or Korea or Viet Nam or Iraq or Afghanistan), leaving a void that could never be filled? How do you learn to love life with a mother who grieved for 60 + years?
How do we receive an incurable cancer diagnosis or regroup after a flood takes everything we own or lose our sight from diabetes or a child from a car accident? Our hope for life is buried in our tragedy.
After the crucifixion, the disciples and followers of Jesus of Nazareth argued over what was to happen to their movement now that Jesus was gone. How could it be that all his promises would not be kept? How could they go on without their beloved leader? This was not how it was supposed to turn out! But the disciples didn’t know the end of the story. And even after the resurrection, they still struggled to “make sense” of what had happened to their lives.
We don’t fully know the end of our stories either. Like the disciples, we have to cling to the hope that life will make sense no matter how it turns out. We have to live in freedom not because everything will end in success, but because we have been assured that life will all make sense in the end. If we live in the light of hope and grace, we may learn that:
- our biggest mistakes become our greatest blessings
- our most painful heartaches become our greatest joys
- and our greatest losses become our greatest gains.