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Hope is a Condition of Your Soul

Fear.  Of nothingness.  Of dying.  Of failure.  Of change.  It is of different degrees, but it all comes from one source, which is the isolated self, the self willfully held apart from God.  There are three ways you can deal with this fear.  You can simply refuse to acknowledge it, dulling your concerns with alcohol or entertainment or exercise or even a sort of virtuous busyness, adding your own energies to the white noise of anxiety that this culture we have created seems to use as fuel.  This is despair, but it is a quiet despair, and bearable for many years.  By the time that great grinding wheel of the world rolls over you for good, you will be too eroded to notice. 

Or, if you are strong in the way that the world is strong, you can strap yourself into life and give yourself over to a kind of furious resistance that may very well carry you through your travails, may bring you great success and seem to the world triumphant, perhaps even heroic.  But if it is merely your will that you are asserting, then you will develop a carapace around your soul, the soul that God is trying to refine, and one day you will return to dust inside that shell that you have made.

There is another way.  It is the way of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, pleading for release from his fate, abandoned by God.  It is something you cannot learn as a kind of lessons simply from reading the text.  Christ teaches by example, true, but he lives with us, lives in us, through imagination and experience.  It is through all these trials in our own lives, these fears however small, that we come close to Christ, if we can learn to say, with him, “not my will, Lord, but yours.”  This is in no way resignation, for Christ still had to act.  We all have to act, whether it’s against the fears of our daily life or against the fear that life itself is in danger of being destroyed.  And when we act in the will of God, we express hope in its purest and most powerful form, for hope, as Václav Havel has said, is a condition of your soul, not a response to the circumstances in which you find yourself.  Hope is what Christ had in the garden, though he had no reason for it in terms of events, and hope is what he has right now, in the garden of our own griefs.

— Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

One Comment Post a comment
  1. mike #

    Oh, man! That’s so rich and satisfying to read. Thank You for sharing these select quotes from Christian Wiman, to me it’s like being handed a piece of sweet candy.

    March 4, 2014

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