The Test of Hope
Presence of God – Give me, O Lord, invincible hope; teach me to hope against all hope, teach me to hope with all my strength.
We prove the firmness of our faith by persevering in it in spite of its obscurity; we prove that our hope is strong by continuing to hope in spite of adversity and even when God seems to have abandoned us. As an act of faith made in the midst of darkness and doubts is more meritorious, so is it with the act of hope uttered in desolation and abandonment. The three theological virtues are the most appropriate and fitting means of uniting us to God; in fact, the purer, more intense, and supernatural are our faith, hope, and charity, the more closely they unite us to Him. To help us reach this point, God leads us through the crucible of trials. The story of Job is re-enacted in some way in the life of every soul dear to God; he was tried in his property, his children, his own person, deserted by his friends, and ridiculed by his wife. He who had been rich and esteemed, found himself alone on a dunghill, covered from head to foot with horrible sores. But if God is good, if it is true that He desires our good, why does He permit all this? Why does He let us suffer? “For God made not death,” says Sacred Scripture, “neither hath He pleasure in the destruction of the living…. It was the wicked who with hands and words invited death” (cf Wisdom 1:13-16). Death and suffering are the consequences of sin, which God has not prevented because He has willed to leave man free. And yet not only sinners suffer, but the innocent also. Why? Because God wishes to try them as gold is tried in the furnace, purifying them and raising them to a good, to a state of happiness immeasurably superior to the goods and the happiness of earth. Thus God permits the sufferings of the innocent, and even uses the consequences of sin—wars, disorders, social and personal injustices—for the greater good of His elect. It is often true, however, that when we are undergoing a trial we neither see nor understand the reason for it. God does not account for His actions nor does He reveal His plans to us; therefore, it is difficult to endure in faith and hope—difficult, but not impossible, for God never sends us trials which are beyond our strength, just as He never abandons us unless we first abandon Him.
“Save me, O God, for the waters have come in even unto my soul. I stick fast in the mire of the deep, and there is no sure standing. I am come into the depth of the sea, and a tempest hath overwhelmed me. I have labored with crying; my jaws are become hoarse; my eyes have failed, whilst I hope in my God…. But my prayer is to Thee, O Lord, for the time of Thy good pleasure…. In the multitude of Thy mercy, hear me, in the truth of Thy salvation. Draw me out of the mire that I may not stick fast; deliver me from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Hear me, O Lord, for Thy mercy is kind; look upon me according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies. Turn not away Thy face from Thy servant … Save me, since Thou art my patience; O Lord, my hope, O Lord, from my youth…. I have always hoped in Thee…. O God be not Thou far from me, make haste to help me…. I suffer, but I will always hope, and will add to all Thy praise…. What great troubles hast Thou shown me, many and grievous; and turning, Thou hast brought me back to life, and hast brought me back again from the depths of the earth. Thou hast multiplied Thy magnificence, and turning to me, Thou hast comforted me” (Ps 69 – 71).
“O hope, sweet sister of faith, you are that virtue which with the keys of the Blood of Christ unlock eternal life to us. You guard the city of the soul against the enemy of confusion, and when the devil tries to cast the soul into despair by pointing out the seriousness of its past sins, you do not slacken your pace, but full of energy, you persevere in fortitude, putting on the balance the price of Christ’s Blood. You place on the brow of perseverance the crown of victory, for you have hoped to obtain it by the power of His Blood” (St. Catherine of Siena).
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Art: The Patient Job, Gerard Seghers, first half of 17th century, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons; Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.