I was thumbing through my journal this morning, a journal that I kept in 2017 while hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail. I had recorded a verse that my friend Daniel had quoted to me that day during some conversation that I can’t really remember. It is a beautiful piece of poetry found in the fifth chapter of Romans. “But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.” I really like this quote.
It affirms, in powerful ways, the prayer that Dry Bones has been praying over this whole season. “Welcome, welcome, welcome, we welcome everything that comes to us today, for we know if it is for our healing…” We acknowledge what happens in this world as it is, refinement. Without suffering there can be no growth. Without growth we have trouble finding reason to hope for anything better, more beautiful, or exciting. We drift into a depression as we forget who we are. If life were to become void of suffering we would find ourselves without the motivation to live and live to the fullest. We would cease to seek out good. Our lack of suffering would then seem to produce suffering.
Trouble is inevitable and essential to the human experience. No matter how much we correct, we can expect to have more to work on.
Still, progress is so good. I will fight for housing and healthcare for all my friends as much as I possibly can. But other problems will arise; universal healthcare, housing for all, each will come with their own challenges and problems to solve. Yet, we continue to work and to hope, because progress still matters. Hope is at the heart of suffering, we don’t experience trouble and accept it as the way things should always be. As we solve one problem, we move on to the next. Progress moves us forward and we continue with hope. This is the joy of being human, to strive and to hope. The existence of suffering in the world, even incurable suffering, is no reason to crumble into despair; but rather, it is the source of our hope, meaning and joy.
Yes, despite our circumstances we hope. Today I find hope in a trip to the food bank with a car full of fellas that will leave with a car load of loot. I find hope in a sincere smile and the will of our friends to create something beautiful even while their worlds are filled with destruction. I find hope knowing that a kind word and a listening ear is sometimes all someone needs or wants. We follow hope because it is the only light that shines through all the darkness.
There is no greater hope than that in the eyes of the greatest sufferer, the one who has tried over and over again but manages to try one more time.
These people find the utmost joy in a moment of peace. In the moment where they know that they fit, where something finally makes sense. I am thankful for hope, and I am reluctantly thankful for suffering.
I am thankful for our friends on the street. They show me what it means to hope, there is an unquenchable hope on fire within our friends. They continue to get excited that they are really going to quit this time, that they are going to get housing, that they are going to find love, that they will make it through the winter. They have seen something beautiful in life through suffering that has shown them the immense worth of life. We are valuable and our futures mean something big to this world.
To struggle for good and fight through our troubles is a high and pure calling. We are human, we stand together in this mess, and we can rejoice in it. Yes, we rejoice in the suffering, for it carries perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
I have hope in this world because you are in it with me.