Hope is the certain knowledge that life's evils have an end—that when we are denied a good, it is because there awaits something greater.
These last few years' suffering has dragged me through the valley of desolation to the threshold of despair. I used to say that the secret to happiness in life was to lower your expectations, but in a way that I can't credit myself, I have learned that my cynical aphorism was backward. The problem is not expecting too much, but settling for too little.
In one film, Abbott and Costello are fishing in a rowboat. Costello catches a fish and uses it as bait to catch a bigger one. He repeats this procedure several times, each time catching a larger fish and using it for bait. Finally he hooks a fish so big that it pulls him overboard.1
Our lives are a big game of double-or-nothing. If we refrain from grasping at our little hopes, eventually the Lord will send us a hope so big that its ecstatic fulfillment will consume our whole being.
There are hopes and there is Hope. Our little hopes rise and fall. Some are fulfilled, some fall by the wayside. Yet beyond these ups and downs is a greater Hope, and winning and losing both have the purpose of opening our hearts to receive it.
Through suffering comes the wisdom of Hope. Hope is the most difficult virtue2 and it is the one we most need in this age that denies purpose and pouts over suffering.
My parents' extreme—even senseless—love has come home to me only in my adulthood. I discovered that they want to give me everything to make me happy—and in fact they have always wanted to give me everything, but feared spoiling me. By denying my desires, they left me a greater gift.
Hope recognizes that God has always wanted to give us everything for our happiness. We err in resting our eyes on glittering goods that cannot satisfy, instead of looking beyond to our true fulfillment.
Ultimately Hope points beyond our senses, far outside this world's shrivelled confines to something, some One.
Hope is the certain knowledge that life's evils have an end—that when we are denied a good, it is because the Lord holds something greater, far greater, for us.
Our suffering purchases a priceless truth. Take this lesson to heart, my child: today's tears will vanish in the radiance of the joy to come.
1. Jean Yarbrough, dir., The Naughty Nineties (1945).
2. Charles Peguy, Portal of the Mystery of Hope, David Louis Schindler, Jr., trans. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1996).