Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hope in Something Greater

Loves takes courage.
Hope is the firm belief that there is something greater than what we’ve experienced today. Have you ever wondered why it is that no matter how wealthy a person may be, no matter how powerful a person may be or how much status they have or how much pleasure they’ve experienced, no matter how many possessions they may own, they continue to pursue more?

The reason for it is hope. Hope tells them there is something greater than what they’ve experienced, and they want to find it. Hope wants them to look beyond the money, the power, the status, the pleasure, and the possessions and find the ultimate source of happiness: Love! Specifically, God’s love. Hope is the compass that points us toward Heaven where greater things than we can hope to have here await those who prove themselves worthy.

How can we be sure there is more than today?

We have five signs we can look toward to reassure us that there is more than what we’ve experienced today: nature, reason, Scripture, the Catechism, and the Saints.

Nature tells us that there is always something greater than today because you know that no matter how beautiful the rose is you find today, there is always one more beautiful than that. No matter how bright the star you see today, there is always one that is brighter still. No matter how strong the animal, no matter how fast, no matter how cunning, there is always one that is faster, stronger, and more cunning than even that one.

Human reason is able to prove this concept is not merely anecdotal, it’s one of the fundamental laws of our universe: you can always add one to something and get something greater.

Scripture promises us
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9
The Cathechism of the Catholic Church tells us that,
The universe was created "in a state of journeying" (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. – Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 4.5.302
The saints themselves, having made their way to heaven, are pointers that there is something greater than this life and therefore greater than today. That we are able to experience miracles through their intercession is a proof that there is something beyond this life and that promises of Heaven are not empty.
As St. Teresa of Avila put it so well,
Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end . . . and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal. 

How Can We Be Sure Our Suffering Will End?

Whatever you are going through now is temporary. You can be sure that it will end if you hold on to hope and allow it to lead you to God’s love for you.

Nature is the first way we can know that suffering will end. Trees die, but only for a time. Winter comes, but only for a season. Night closes in on us, but only for a time. The moon disappears, but only for a little while. These things can all be distressing, but they all come to an end, eventually. So, too, with any suffering.

Reason tells us that all things, except God, have both a beginning and an end. Suffering, too, has a beginning and will have an ending. We only need to hold on to hope and when the aim for which the suffering was allowed is accomplished, our suffering will be over.

Scripture reminds us that suffering is temporary. Job suffered for a time, but when that time was over, he was given better than what was before. The Nation of Israel suffered in the desert to purify themselves of their sin, but when the suffering was over, they were led into paradise.

From St. Ignatius of Lloyola, we are reminded that suffering isn't pointless, but have as their point getting us ready for the greatest gifts that God has to offer.
Realize that illness and other temporal setbacks often come to us from the hand of God our Lord, and are sent to help us know ourselves better, to free ourselves of the love of created things, and to reflect on the brevity of this life and, thus, to prepare ourselves for the life which is without end. – St. Ignatius of Lloyola

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Nature gives us a hint about why God allows suffering by observing the reason for pain. The first portion of the brain to develop are the sensors which detect pain, because pain helps an organism to avoid those things which would ultimately destroy it. It is a protective measure to help motivate the creature to get out of harm’s way.

Reason gives us another indicator. Fiction writing tells us that suffering is used to reveal and improve character, to prepare a character for battle with the enemy, and to push the character to seek answers. No writer every introduces suffering into the life of a character for no reason, and neither does God.

Scripture tells us that
“In fire, gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation” – Sirach 2:5
The reason for this testing is revealed in Romans
we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. – Romans 5:3-4
St. Faustina had this to say about suffering:
Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Saviour; in suffering love becomes crystallised; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.

How Can We Be Sure God Wants Better For Us?

The stars and the planets show us that there is more to life than what we can see in front of us. They are an indicator that whatever we’ve gotten today, there is more out there to be gotten than we can ever imagine or possibly hope to exhaust.

Reason tells us God wants better for us because He created desires and gave us the means to fulfill those. If He didn’t mean for us to have better, it wouldn’t be possible to obtain it.

Scripture tells us,
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him! – Isaiah 30:18
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church, reminds us that,
God does all things, or permits all that happens, for his glory and for our greater good

 Why Doesn’t God Just Give Us Better Things?

Observe the animals. Those who grow up surrounded by easy eating and without awareness of danger are easy prey for the hunter. Giving them what they want doesn’t do them any favors. It is only because they are made to struggle and are surrounded by dangers that they become strong enough and wily enough to make it in the world in which they live.

Human nature shows that those who are simply given things are not improved by the experience, and rarely do they appreciate what has been given to them because they do not understand its value.  Working toward what is desired is what is best for the man and makes them treasure what is gained because they know what it took them to get it.

Lottery winners rarely have their lives improved for long by having such money simply given to them. Those who win the lottery find their lives devastated by divorce, kidnappings, murders, and every kind of evil.

In Proverbs 13:11, we hear God’s opinion on the matter,
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
God wants us to work for the better things because it improves our lives to do so. It helps us to value and appreciate the good things we receive, and it makes us stronger. Love takes courage, and courage takes strength. Struggle produces the strength necessary to endure what love requires of us, and love is the greatest life has to offer.

In a vision received by St. Rose of Lima, she recorded,
Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: "Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.”
God does want better for us, but the road to better things is paved with struggle and with suffering. The sooner we learn this, the greater our hope will grow, for in troubled times we will begin to see the hand of God preparing us for things beyond our imagining.

Come back next time

In the next chapter, we will begin to explore the difference hope can make in our lives, the impact it can have on our health mentally, physically, and emotionally. We’ll also explore hope’s role in aging and disease. Stay tuned!

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