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Luke Stocking: The hope inside me comes from God

By 
  • January 30, 2021

Hope.

Over my 14 years working at Development and Peace – Caritas Canada I have given a countless number of public presentations and workshops on our mission. This has involved sharing story after story of the violence, poverty and injustice of our broken world. Of all the questions people have asked me, there is one that arises again and again: “How do you stay hopeful?”

It is a good question. When my organization began, many thought the problem of global poverty could be solved within a decade or two at the most. While one can point to many positive steps forward that humanity has taken since we began in 1967, we are still a long ways from completing our mission. We are still searching for alternatives to the unjust social and economic systems that impoverish not only individuals and communities, but entire nations. Furthermore, we find ourselves in a global pandemic that is threatening to undo much of what progress that has been made. Global poverty is projected to increase for the first time in 30 years.

Most importantly though, something exists in our collective consciousness now that did not when we began our work. The human family has a growing grasp of the science that tells us the industrialized system credited with so much global economic progress is threatening our very place on the planet. We are hurtling towards biodiversity collapse and untold human suffering. And yet there is hope in me.

My wife recently brought me a library book by my peace and conflict studies professor from university, Commanding Hope by Thomas Homer-Dixon. Its pages are my nightly companion as I find myself thinking about hope more and more. Homer-Dixon wants us to become active agents of hope, which he describes as a movement “from hope that to hope to.” A “hope that” statement implies a passivity and no control over the uncertain outcome. “I hope that it will be sunny tomorrow” is the example he gives. A “hope to” statement has agency. 

Pondering his words, another hope statement came to me from our Scriptures — “Hope in.” “Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). The hope that is in me comes from God. The hope that I have in others come from God. The hope that I have in a future for our common home comes from God.

For Homer-Dixon, this kind of hope is an “interesting objectless hope” that “rests on a firm conviction that something like a higher power … will guide and protect us and give our lives meaning.” He says this is laudable, but not sufficient to help humanity meet the challenge before us of preventing the destruction of our common home.

The hope that is in me is not without object though. The object of my hope is God. Rather than a conviction that a higher power will guide and protect me, my hope is more like a homing signal directing me (and every other creature) towards union with God.

Hope in God is at its essence about relationship. I think for us to have a hope in the face of the immense suffering and evil that confronts us every day, relationship is key. Relationship is the hope driver. That is what we all say here at Development and Peace when we are asked about hope. We talk about relationships with people in Canada and in the Global South. These relationships provide all the hope that they need to persist in our mission against all the odds.

While not all of us are able to see the divine source of this hope or name its ultimate object as God, we can feel it in our other relationships. We feel it in our relationship to the beauty of the land. We feel it in our relationships to our loved ones — especially our children. Homer-Dixon’s own book is dedicated to his children with the inscription “nobis non desistendum est” — we must not give up. So very true. How could we ever give up on our common home so long as the mother still brings her newborn onto her chest and the father ponders the miracle before him in awe?   

(Stocking is is Deputy Director of Public Awareness & Engagement, Ontario and Atlantic Regions for Development and Peace.)

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