Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
— 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Paul is speaking here from direct and immediate experience. He was a man with many enemies at this point, a hunted man, keeping low but still reaching out to the new communities of Christians he had helped establish. His "we" here is likely more of a royal "we", in that he is talking of himself and how he is coping with the troubles he encounters and the stress he is under. Paul's message, as with Jesus, is always a message of hope. Hope is not optimism though. Neither man would claim that everything will turn out fine, nor ask an oppressed people to "look on the bright side". Such talk would be patronising and irresponsible. The hope that Jesus (and Paul) talk of is more akin to graceful acceptance of what is.
"Being neither an optimist nor a pessimist, Jesus speaks about hope that is not based on chances that things will get better or worse. His hope is built on the promise that whatever happens, God will stay with us at all times." 1
Hope is the ability to stay present no matter what, and to trust that there is a greater purpose than the one we can currently conceive of in our limited view. In this way, hope is the foundation of faith.
1 From The Road to Peace by Henri J. M. Nouwen, 1997