Hope and Despair
For the conditions of love are to trust, for the obligations of love are to wait. But waiting is not a stationary act, it is a movement towards the beloved with faith. Despair is not an act of trust, while hope is the essence of faith.
To have faith is to trust – and trust comes when one knows – that the one who has been with you in everything to date, who has brought you here today, who has helped you overcome every impossible moment, with whom you have conquered each insurmountable mountain is still with you and will also carry you over this chasm, will help you weather this storm, will provide for you in every barren desert, and will be enough for you and more. The bird leaves its nest in the morning, not knowing from where it will receive its food, but returns every night with its stomach filled and its thirst quenched… if only we learned to trust like the bird, we would never lose hope, we would never despair.
Lizzie Winfrey is a third year student at the University of St Andrews studying English and History.
Hope is the belief that there is a light at the end of the tunnel; that the dark night of the soul will not last forever; that there will be an end to pain and difficulty.
It is an incredibly powerful force. Every year, doctors behold a phenomenon where terminally ill patients survive Christmas and then die shortly in the New Year. It is hope of one final holiday to spend with their loved ones that keeps them going. When reading about the life of Louis Zamperini, an American Olympic athlete who became a POW in Japan during WWII, what we see is that this man survived because he had hope. His friends who died were often those who had become hopeless; who felt they had nothing to live for.
Hope has shaped movements such as the Civil Rights Movement in the US; the antislavery movement in Britain and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. With something this powerful, it is important we ask ourselves: what/who/where am I placing my hope?
Jack is a student at the University of St Andrews completing his Masters in Conservation Studies.
Zoe is a fourth year student at the University of St Andrews studying Theology.
Frodo : What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
Bethany is a student at the University of St Andrews completing her Masters in International Development.
Hope can be quite a disillusioning concept, especially in a pandemic. While I’m hopeful that the pandemic will come to an end, I’m a lot less hopeful that the same is true for poverty. While we often hope for things, both the unlikely and the inevitable, we sometimes refer to hope in a more abstract sense, speaking about signs of hope. Objects of significance are often conceptualised as signs of hope and these objects are symbolic of things becoming better than they are in the current moment. Many good stories will have signs of hope in them suggesting to the reader that it is worth turning to the next page. Hope, although often unrecognised, is what keeps us going. Just like a story without hope doesn’t make for a compelling read, a life without hope is a life that is exhausting and can leave you disillusioned.
Hope can also often be referred to as blind optimism. However, I believe that the signs of hope we see provide and ground hope in a reality. A friend of mine once sent me a picture of an incredible butterfly that had managed to get into his house despite all the windows being closed. He sent this to me the day after he’d had a pretty crap day and yet hope resonated with him through the beauty in something that could be considered so small and insignificant. This shows me how hope manifests in reality. It isn’t blind but is alive and we see glimpses of it all around us. It’s in the wings of butterflies and in the sunset over the ocean. It’s in the fact that the sun will rise again tomorrow regardless of what has happened the day before. It’s these symbols of good prevailing over the evil that we see that provide us with hope.
As a Christian, hope for me is grounded in a creation that reflects the beauty of its creator, as Paul writes in Corinthians “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Here Paul is speaking of the fact that love never fails, for him this isn’t wishful thinking but a grounded hope. He tells us that lots of the things in this world do cease but is confident of the fact that love isn’t one of them. He doesn’t hope for what he cannot see but hopes for something that is rooted in reality. The beauty we see in creation is a reflection of something better that is to come.