Tenacious hope in the face of sobering reality

Hope is a state of mind independent of the state of the world. If your heart’s full of hope, you can be persistent when you can’t be optimistic. – William Sloan Coffin

Dear Friend—

I find myself in an interesting state of mind—I’m sure you do as well.

Our current reality is sobering. Nobody really knows the potential long term impact of this current crisis. We know it will get worse. We know people will suffer. We know that the worst of humanity will rear its ugly head. We know that the path forward is full of ambiguity and potential chaos. This is our reality.

One of the reasons I remain committed to my Christian faith is that Christianity is not afraid to stare reality in the face—with all its warts and uncertainty. Karl Marx got it wrong when he said “religion is the opiate of the people.”

Authentic biblical faith is no opiate. It’s no crutch. It’s not about denying the harsh realities of the human condition. It’s not about irrational scapegoating to avoid looking into our own hearts. It’s not about blaming and shaming.

Faith calls us to stare into the darkness, to hold our gaze on the unpleasant, to not be surprised at selfishness and human depravity. Little has changed since biblical writers reminded people that life is fragile, people are irrational, and life can take difficult unexpected turns.

But here’s the difference.

As Christians, we possess the hope to embrace the sobering reality of our circumstances. How? Because we believe, with a kind of stubborn tenacity, in God’s ability to transform the most despairing and difficult of circumstances. We are Easter people.

It's been my experience. My truth.

Thirty-plus years ago a community of Christians stared into the most dangerous, violent city in America. We didn’t run. We didn’t pretend there were no problems. We didn’t blame people for their circumstances. We refused to let fear guide our vision.

As a community of faith we acknowledged the brokenness we saw in our neighborhoods, we held the pain in our hearts and we called upon our faith to provide practical ways to change this despairing reality.

God showed up. There’s no other way to explain it. Again and again and again. People surrendered their lives to service. People sacrificially shared their resources. People joined hands across racial and political lines. Kids were loved. Miracles happened. Hope took root in one of society's forgotten gardens....and blossomed.

I believe this same God, who has faithfully provided and guided us for 33 years, continues to infuse each of us with wisdom, patience, love and hope.

We nervously step forward into the unknown—with a bar of soap in our hands, common sense in our pockets, grace in hearts, courage running through our spine...and the tenacious hope that God will show up repeatedly and unexpectedly.

That’s a promise I’m counting on...an urban promise.

Bruce Main

  • Reflect on a time in your life when fear was replaced with hope? What allowed for the shift?
  • What is an action you can take today to cultivate hope for yourself and/or a loved one?