By Dorothy Lowrie
One task I give myself each day to help with my own level of hope – with my focus these days being hope for a better tomorrow for all of us in this pandemic – is to look for God’s grace in simple things. This week, God’s grace came to me through a symbol in nature. I happened to look up into the branches of a fir tree to see a perfect cross. The cross was symmetric and standing straight up in the branches – I felt the message for me was ‘look to the cross Dorothy, and you will see God’s grace’.
Any other time in my life, I may have missed seeing this symbol; any other time in my life I may have been working or busy thinking of what I still needed to complete in the day or pondering the future. The time I have spent since our March isolation began my spiritual journey that I believe has opened me to seeing God’s grace.
For me, God’s grace is like a ‘hug’ with him saying to me ‘have hope, I am with you whatever happens today, tomorrow, in the future’.
The St. James Version of the Bible – Life Application Version – defines hope as ‘confident trust with the expectation of fulfillment’. This definition of hope appears in 40 references within this version of the Bible (Tyndale House Publishers, 1989 p. 2415). I would modify this definition to say ‘confident trust in God’ with the expectation of fulfillment. Someone recently in my past tried to tell me that there was no hope for me, given a tough situation I was in and some very big mistakes I had made in my life. I wish I could have told them at the time that as a daughter of Christ, not only do I have hope, but I have trust in God which gives me the strength to stay hopeful regardless of what is happening in my life or in the world.
As we age and deal with changes to our health, changes perhaps to our living situation (not by choice), changes to our sense of identity, changes within our circle of family or friends, remaining hopeful can be a challenge. Remaining hopeful when you are living a life of isolation can also be difficult since loneliness, as I have found, can often lead a person to lose their sense of hope.
But these days, I would say having a sense of hope is something that people of all ages struggle with. I observed a lack of hope in many students when I was teaching at a college level before the pandemic. I did not always sense that the students were hopeful in general about their future in this world. With the pandemic, I think that younger people face even a tougher struggle to remain hopeful despite the ‘good news’ stories that do exist about how some have used the pandemic as an opportunity to develop new businesses or launch new ideas or help others.
My favorite quote from scripture about hope comes from Romans – Chapter 15, Verse 13 – “May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound and be overflowing with hope”. Written by Paul, this passage to me has even more impact when you consider Paul’s background; as a man who spent much of his earlier life persecuting Christians, he has been forgiven his sins and is sharing the message that apart from faith in God, we have no hope in life. But with admission of our sins and Christ’s forgiveness, we can live in faith and in hope.
There have been days recently when I have not felt well; I have come to recognize that the reason stems from listening to too much negative news, pure loneliness and being tired of living in this pandemic. It is a mental and a physical sense of being unwell – I have come to see it as a time when I need to boost my hopefulness. In these situations, I go to my three pillars of healthful aging or living at any age – spirituality, creativity and social connectivity. It takes work and effort to address these areas of my life right now. But when I start with spirit and read one of the 40 instances in the Bible about the hope that faith brings to our life, the other two seems to follow. And even if I cannot get a ‘hug’ from a friend these days, I am blessed to be able to identify and see God’s grace around me – in nature, in animals, in a smile or hello from a stranger – that acts as an inspiration of hope.
I think that one thing all of us can do these days is to be an instrument of God’s grace – asking ourselves what we can do, not only to stay hopeful ourselves, but what we can do to help others to be hopeful – regardless of their age. One way is to share how our faith give us hope.
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