Growing up as a child of the ‘50s, you learned that ‘laugh and cry does live in the same house’. This piece of folk wisdom meant that after joy will come sorrow.
The reverse is also true: ‘weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning’. The old-timers also used to say, ‘the longest rope has an end’.
Why have we forgotten and now believe that we are entitled to a never-ending streak of good fortune? Or why are we downcast because we are having a difficult period? This too shall pass!
We are in a tough place. Many have lost their jobs, while others find it difficult to pay their bills. Several of us have been forced into becoming teachers in an unprecedented home schooling experiment.
Once a retreat from work pressures, our homes are now our workplaces. Our movements outside our homes are now severely restricted as we attempt to dodge possible Covid-19 infection. There is a collapse of once well-known boundaries between work, school, home and recreation.
Everything seems chaotic. We feel like we have lost control. We now live in strange times where we do not know who is carrying the virus. No control over whether our neighbourhood is a hot spot or not.
There is no control over whether a loved one will catch the virus from some visitor. We are never more than a click away from some other depressing news headline on social media.
The videos on our phones enable us to feel the palpable pain and distress of others, etching them in our memories. The tragedies underline that the world is a dangerous, unstable place that drains us of our energy.
The global pandemic has brought much uncertainty. When we consider the upheaval in the economy and our politics, our priorities are confused.
We have slowly come to grips with the reality that the world has changed; the life we knew in the last decades is not returning. But we have always lived with uncertainty.
Anxiety about life’s outcome may be rampant, but it has always been present. It is just that Covid-19 has brought this reality home more starkly.
Unfortunately, we had been nurtured into believing that life is a one-way street that leads to ever-increasing success. Shattering this illusion, Covid-19 has stamped the truth that we cannot control everything in our lives.
But we can control how we respond.
If you perceive the world as unfavourable, you allow your fear to guide your conscious attention to the negativity. We see the world as we see ourselves. We have a choice.
Our brains are wired to be attuned to adverse results; this is a self-preservation device to ensure the survival of our species. But we do not have to act upon our fear since it triggers a self-repeating cascade of fear. The cycle feeds on itself and disturbs our capacity to respond constructively.
Hope is not whistling in the dark. It is not the belief that everything will go well all the time. We, as adults, should reject that Pollyanna-ish position. Things do go wrong.
Hope is rooted in a vision of the future—it is a seed we plant now and work with to create a thing of beauty, our future. To have hope is to avoid the certainty of the optimists and the pessimists.
Hope tells us that what we do matters. We may not know it at the time and we may not know how it will pan out but history has shown us that people can change the course of events.
We have to remember and not fall prey to amnesia. Hope is rooted in our past. We have to remember where we came from and how strong we were in overcoming our past battles.
Our past is neither a story of never-ending victories nor a tale of relentless woes. Most of our history is a complicated one with sorrows and joys mingled. But underlying it is a sense of resilience, our power to keep going despite the odds.
Amnesia wants us to forget and make us believe that nothing changes, that our present circumstances are how it has always been and will be. When we fail to remember how far we have come, we despair.
Having hope may not immediately change our situation, but it certainly gives us the room to be creative and courageous. This imagination improves our chances of getting over on the other side.
It is not good to act as though we know with certainty the outcomes nor is it wise to give up. The sacrifices we are now making do not have an inevitable success. Indeed, we do not even know how to define ‘success’. But it will be silly not to try.
We must trust that our sacrifice is necessary and that it will bring us into a different place.
The very essence of faith is having confidence in what we cannot see. Faith operates in the unknown.
There is a story about four lepers sitting outside a besieged city, and their challenge was ‘why do we sit here until we die?’
Their options? Go into the city, die because of the famine, or go to the enemy? There they may live or die.
They decided to take the chance with the enemies (2 Kings 7: 3 – 20). They lived.
What will we do today? Sitting still and crying should not be an option.