The Biblical character Job experienced what the Roman Catholic mystic St. John of the Cross called “the dark night of the soul.” Despair was seeking to find a foothold in his spirit and misery was searching for a resting place in his conscience.
Job had experienced the kind of tragedy that could cause one to lose his or her mind and abandon all memory. He had suffered catastrophic loss and what appeared to be an unrelenting personal attack. As if enduring the loss of his possessions and his children was not enough, Job also had to withstand sores and boils that were ravaging his body. In the midst of it all, he had to also bear an unsympathetic spouse and false friends who were convinced that his misfortune was a result of his sinfulness. Job truly experienced grief of the highest order.
But from the depth of his desolation, Job rebelled against the spiritual onslaught. With a hopeful tone, he declared, “For I know my Redeemer lives.” Job refused to relinquish his hope in God. As he experienced the painful inconsistencies of this world, he believed in the constant and consistent presence of a faithful God. Job held on to hope.
There are times when, in the eyes of the non-discerning, hope seems irrational and even insane. The real test of an individual is not if one can be hopeful in times of plenty and prosperity, but whether one can remain hopeful in times of chaos and calamity. This is the true test!
Given the horrors of this world and the unpredictability of life, it is easy to question the sanity of hopefulness. In the face of the recent rash of tornadoes that have bruised, battered and decimated parts of our country, many who have felt the grueling impact of the devastation have forfeited hopefulness and have allowed hopelessness to have dominion. In interview upon interview after the tornadoes, I heard people cry out, “I have lost everything,” while others raised soul-piercing questions like, “What will I do?” and “Where will I go?”
There are experiences that come our way that bring us face to face with our mortality and challenge us to embrace the inherent fragility of human life. In fact, one of the greatest temptations we face as human beings is the temptation to assume that tomorrow is guaranteed. At times it is difficult to accept our finiteness, especially when we believe that greatness is synonymous with immortality. We live as though we will live forever, and we forget to make daily investments in joy, happiness and peace. Instead, we put these pursuits off for another day as though another day is a given. And when unforeseen tragedy strikes, we lose hope! We think about all that we didn’t accomplish or about all the things that were lost-and in that instant, we lose hope.
I am convinced that, of all the things we can lose in life, the one thing we can’t afford to lose is hope. History is filled with countless persons who, when faced with tragedy, held on to hope for dear life. They realized that remaining hopeful in hopeless situations can strengthen one’s spirit and transform circumstances that seek to deplete our reservoir of hope.
When you find yourself coming under attack and it feels like your back is against the wall, how will you respond? Will you sigh, surrender and throw in the towel or will you seek to fight the “good fight” of faith and remain hopeful? Remember, only when it is dark do people see stars. Never stop shining! Hold on to hope!