There is a quotation from Viktor Frankl that comes to mind now that really sums up what I was trying to say:
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
It seems to me that hope isn't so much about hoping for some particular thing (whether it be descendants or winning the lottery) but a more basic attitude of trust that God wants good for us.
I realize I could have used the well-known words of Julian of Norwich:
All shall be well,
and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing
shall be well.
The problem is that we do experience things that cause us to question God's goodness. (I've been sitting in on my friend Paul's theodicy course and thinking about this a lot lately) I spoke about the children's memorial at Yad Vashem - you enter a dark room in which the names of the 1.5 million children who died in the Shoah are read. A candle is reflected off of a thousand mirrors creating the image of the stars in the sky. My friend Paul talks about the power of the rebuke of God as the promise made to Abraham that his descendants would number like the stars in the sky is contrasted to the death of so many children under the Nazis. I talked about this in light of the readings from Genesis and Hebrews about the promise made to Abraham and his faithful response and the Jewish struggle to make sense of God's covenant post-Shoah.
Then I talked about the challenges to faith we often face in our own lives. And I talked about an attitude of hopefulness that choses to look at the reasons we have in our own experience to trust in God. (See the Buechner article below)
As I look out at these people I love so much knowing some of the things they've suffered I am so moved by their faithfulness. They are so hopeful and so gracious in the face of suffering. This is why we can't be solitary Christians. When my faith is shaken or uncertain I count on the prayer, the support, the example of these people to carry me when I'm unable to walk for myself. Father Bob Cowan, may his memory be a blessing, said to me once when he was dying that when I was praying for him I wasn't just interceding for him but I was literally praying in his place because he was unable to pray the office any more.
Being a part of this community is one of the reasons I trust in the goodness of God.