We might ask ourselves ‘why in this life are we afflicted with all these sorts of evils that Pandora released.’ But more importantly we should ask ourselves ‘why is Hope among the evils contained in the jar?’
This has been debated for many centuries. Hesiod saw Hope as being only for the gullible, and deprived men of their industriousness. Hope meant that people would not work for what they wanted, but sit back and just hope that it will happen - and probably starve to death in the process.
The Apostle Paul saw Hope in a much more elevated way and one of the three great virtues, along with Faith and Love.
“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.“ Romans 5:2-5
Hope is only a good thing if there is an object to Hope. For Paul and for us as Christians, Jesus is that Hope. The fact that in Jesus, God is incarnate. God in Jesus, lives our life on earth, dies and is raised again to life. In Jesus we see God face to face. In Jesus we have the hope that life is no longer bound by death.
Proverbs say : “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (13:12)
It is perhaps the loss of Hope, or at least our Hope being deferred, that has caused many to be anxious during these times of lockdown. When our hopes and expectations are delayed, we can experience disappointment and can be a source of anxiety. We have all had to put on hold much of that we look forward to and hope for, and have found that many of those things that give structure to our year have been cancelled. As we approach our Christmas season the emotional and physical strain on people, should this too be cancelled, is a very real concern.
Philosophers continue to debate whether Hope is a blessing or a curse. But as Christians we hold onto Hope as being a gift of God. Hope is something that makes life worth living, and gives us the ability to face even the darkest times.
The theologian Frederick Buechner writing a little after the first moon landing writes this about Hope (which he calls wishful thinking.)
“Christianity is mainly wishful thinking. Even the part about Judgement and Hell reflects the wish that somewhere the score is being kept. Dreams are wishful thinking. Children playing at being grown-ups is wishful thinking. Interplanetary travel is wishful thinking.
Sometimes wishing is the wings the truth comes true on.
Sometimes the truth is what sets us wishing for it.”
No matter what happens in the coming weeks, I would encourage you to be people of Hope. Not a gullible, delusional Hope. But a real Hope that is focussed on Jesus, God with us, who shows there is life after death, and after lockdown.
Image: Hope by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images