One of the most costly casualties of church conflict—whether minor or major, short or prolonged—is “hope.”
As bearers of the Word of God, our calling is to give hope. No wonder that one of Satan’s greatest and most frequently shot at targets is “hope.”
Daniel Goleman, in his bestseller, Emotional Intelligence, recalled the Greek legend of Pandora’s Box. Pandora, a princess of ancient Greece, was given a mysterious box by other gods jealous of her beauty. Told she must never open the box, she succumbed to temptation and curiosity. As she opened the lid to take a peek, all the sudden a whole host of grand afflictions were set loose—disease, malaise, madness, etc. Luckily, a compassionate god let her close the box just in time to keep her from losing the one antidote that would make life’s misery bearable: hope.
“Hope,” says Goleman, “is more than a sunny view that everything will turn out all right.” Quoting University of Kansas psychologist C.R. Snyder, Goleman wrote that hope is “believing you have both the will and the way to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be.” (Goleman, Daniel., Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books, 1995, p. 87).
Isn’t that where hope begins to fade…when we, as God’s leaders, lose either the will to carry on or, for whatever reasons, get lost in our daily trek towards God’s purpose in the church.
In the most primary sense, when Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He was indicating that He is our hope. When our connection in Word and Sacrament is strongly entrenched in Him, the will and the way become evident.
Unfortunately, none of us are beyond losing hope. Burnout, conflict, frustration over goals, control issues, antagonism, not to mention the daily grind, all contribute to a loss of desire to serve and an indifference to any means that might prove effective in bringing God-pleasing transformation of His Church.
Fortunately, God considers none of us beyond hope.
How do we deal with the loss of hope?
How do you deal with such times when your will is weak or the way is “weary and long?”
Here’s some possibilities that I might suggest. Perhaps some might suggest others!
1) Study the Psalms, noting how many times the Psalmist (especially David) is at the point of losing hope and, just when it seems bleakest, he seems to give himself a spiritual kick to remind Him of God’s greatness. Psalm 13 is just one of many, many examples of this. If it worked for a King, maybe it will work for you.
2) Consider the pattern of God’s working in His chosen ones. He always intervenes just at the time when Pandora’s Box has been opened, things hit the fan, and then…just at the right moment…He intervenes to give hope. Scripture records how this happens in just about every single Prophet’s life. Consider Moses on the banks of the Red Sea awaiting one of the largest full-scale Jewish bloodbath of ancient times. Just moments before Pharaoh’s army was ready to make hamburger out of the Israelites, God intervened and gave hope. He provided both the will and the way. Moses, patiently following God’s leading, led the people to unprecedented victory over one of the greatest nations of ancient times.
You gotta have hope. With a God like ours, how can we have anything but…hope that He will build His church and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Yes, Satan will find his way into very influential areas of the church. There will be many battles. But He can’t win the war. Our Lord, our Hope, has won. We win as we keep the faith in His hope. Our hope is, of course, based on nothing less than Him!
Thomas F. Fischer