Finding hope in the bleakest of times

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This month we hear from Church Related Community Work (CRCW) student Katy Ollerenshaw, who reflects on finding hope when hope feels like it's fading. Katy's reflection was written before the approval and introduction of a vaccine, which we all hope may be a game-changer with regards to our global pandemic. The last nine months have certainly seen many new developments and one suspects that this won't change any time soon. There hope is that change is coming.

Read Katy's full reflection here:ThisWillAlsoPass crop

Before you switch off, I promise this has a happy ending. I’m writing this at the start of Lockdown 2: Return of the Virus. And like the scrolling screen at the start of a Star Wars movie I could list for you the complicated international relations, local problems and turmoil that are plaguing (excuse the pun) the context for this article.

I’m waiting to find out if Donald Trump will have won or will attempt the steal the US Election. Covid19 is rising in my local area and a second lockdown is coming into place, and no one is happy or can agree on it, although it doesn’t seem much different in Manchester from the day before. Christmas is looming and we seem to be trapped in a dichotomy of joy and doom as we prepare to experience Christmas in a different way this year. Tensions between the UK’s nations and across the North-South divide are rising, as the lack of equitable treatment becomes starkly apparent. The world is continuing to burn as Global Warming begins to pass it’s point of no return.

So, I asked my fellow students on an online Zoom call how I could write an article that wasn’t, in my own words, “a massive downer”, where they were finding hope? They had a good list; more people going outdoors, a change in the way we approach church, God is in all things, so hope is in all things. I agree those are all wonderful, they were wonderful six months ago too, but they aren’t giving me the same punchy hope they were back then. Reading about them in article after article, clutching at them as hope straws has fatigued them. Maybe it’s time to give up hope?

“Oh no, how could you even suggest such a thing!” I can, it’s crossed my mind, it’s crossed a lot of our minds I’m sure. Maybe there are times when we just can’t find hope, where it’s invisible or hidden. When you are living with a mental health condition, like depression, that’s what every day feels like. It’s a battleground every single moment to keep going. Biblically there is precedent for just stopping and screaming at God about how unfair it all really is – enough for us to give it a defined name and book: Laments.

In many epic narratives, like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Bible, these hopeless times were the start, the catalyst for the long and difficult road for change ahead. Luke stands on Tatooine, under the thumb of the Empire staring at the remains of the home he shared with his aunt and uncle. Darkness rises in the east of Middle Earth, orcs and Uruk-hai ravage the lands of Rohan and Gondor, while Frodo flees the shire to protect his home and deliver the ring to Rivendell. Mary, heavily pregnant, travels to Nazareth to be counted by the Empire, with Joseph. Meanwhile Herod prepares to slaughter all the new-born baby boys. Mary gives birth with only her husband’s assistance in a stable and is then forced to then take her new-born and flee to Egypt.

The thing is, most of the populace in these narratives have no clue that a hero or saviour rises, they are living in relatively hopeless times. And its takes a while too, for the hero to come into their own, for change to happen, and the work doesn’t even end then (apart from in Star Wars, Episodes 7,8&9 don’t exist in our house). Yet those with a little knowledge do their best.

The resistance, with Leia, has stolen the plans to the death star. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Boromir all travel to Rivendell to do their part in the destruction of the ring. Elizabeth begins to raise John ready to prepare the way for Jesus, the Magi take a different way home and Shepherds spread the news; “a saviour comes.” But the empire still destroys Alderan, the gap of Rohan is burned and Osgiliath lost, hundreds of Jewish baby boys are killed, it’s hard to imagine that all that happens without lament.

So the hard lesson to take from this is pretend you’re in a book and it’s all okay? No, escapism is good, healthy even at a time like this, and I’d be happy to talk about that for hours. The lesson I’m going to take is the more hopeless it feels, the harder it is to see the light, the more likely it is that someone I can’t see is carrying the lightsabre, or ring, or saviour. I just need to take a deep breath lament, do my part and in the meantime, change will be happening. See I told you there was a happy ending.

Photo: Brett Jordan/Unsplash.

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