Let’s face it: looking around at the world today, it can be difficult to find the light shining in the midst of what seems to be a lot of darkness. Our spirits won’t be lifted by turning on the nightly news or reading the paper, and it’s easy to be consumed by the anxieties and daily struggles of family life, especially when faced with illnesses, unemployment, and so many other burdens. While our culture would have us turn to distractions or self-medicating activities that make many promises but don’t actually deliver, our faith holds up another way. 

Seeing the bigger picture. 

Hope opens our eyes to see the deeper reality of life: to know that this passing world is not the end, because we were made for heaven! It means living with our gaze fixed on the promise of eternal life, which radically changes how we see the present moment. It means standing in confident expectation of the Father’s blessing (cf. CCC 2090). 

TIP: Shift your horizon. When I am disappointed, I can ask, “How will this appear in the light of eternity?” I can lift my gaze to the reality of God’s infinite love for me and His desire to be with me in heaven forever. 

God is real. And that changes everything. 

St. Paul describes hope as living with God in the world (cf. Eph 2:12). Living in hope means choosing to find Jesus – the God who came to us as a tiny babe in Bethlehem – and continuing to bring light into the darkness of our world each day. In a culture in which so many people have everything they need and more, God can seem irrelevant. But hope totally contradicts that way of thinking, it says, “God is real, and He is here. And that matters – in fact, it changes everything”. He is alive and present, even in the midst of darkness and suffering. And He is drawing us to more, even in the midst of comfort and security in material things. 

TIP: Make an act of faith. “Jesus, I believe that You are here with me now. I believe that You see me, and that You are working all things for my good.” 

Not placing limits on God’s generosity. 

So often, we place limits on God by asking too little from Him! But Christmas reminds us that He wants to give us everything, because He wants to give us Himself. Our desire for heaven, for God, is fed by hope and leads to greater hope. St. Thérèse of Lisieux encouraged us: “We can never have too much confidence in the good God who is so powerful and so merciful. We obtain from Him as much as we hope for.” 

TIP: Remember your blessings. Take a minute every day to thank the Lord for everything He’s given you. 

A hope that trusts in His goodness.

 The truth is, hoping for much from God takes courage. It is tempting to live our lives constantly grasping for control; it feels safer to cling to what we can acquire, fix, or produce. But actual Christian hope takes risk. It means daring to hope in the goodness of the Father. It means believing in who He is and what He says, most especially through His Son – placing our trust not in ourselves, but in Someone else. And that can be scary! Because of this, hope is a radical witness to those around us. 

TIP: Re-focus. When I find myself feeling disappointed or discouraged, I can ask myself, “Where did I place my hope? Was it in my own ideas, plans, or possible outcomes? Or was in Jesus Christ?” 

Remembering the dawn: Look to the saints.

In a world desperately longing for hope and not knowing where to find it, we have much to offer those around us. Pope St. John Paul II once said, “Just when night engulfs us, we must think about dawn coming; we must believe that every morning, the Church is revived through her saints.” We look to the saints that have gone before us to teach us to live in hope, and we also recognize that we are called to join them here and now! 

TIP: Remember: you are not alone. The saints struggled, too, and Jesus worked wonders in their lives.

He believes in you. Let Him in. 

You are called to be the next saint that will revive the Church and the world. By giving God permission to be God in your life, by receiving the grace and new life He wants to give you and letting Him draw you closer to heaven each day, you will be a beacon of light in the world. And the hope that was born at Christmas will continue to grow in human hearts until the promise of eternal life is realized. So take courage! Be not afraid. Give Him permission.

 TIP: Practice and pray. When I find myself cast about by the storms of life, I can make an act of hope and pray: “Lord, I accept, I offer, I surrender myself to Your hands because You are my loving Father.”

 

Originally printed in IMPRINT Magazine Winter 2018.