We’re living in a time that seems both devoid of hope and, at the same time, filled with it. We asked youth minister Kris Frank, author of Hope Always: Our Anchor in Life’s Storms, available now through Pauline Books & Media, to share some thoughts about hope at this difficult and defining moment.
Pauline Books & Media: It feels like we’re at a crossroads of sorts. How can the notion—and virtue—of hope help us in our present moment?
Kris Frank: No matter what we’re up against, it is always a moment of hope. It’s true that everyone is unsettled: no-one knows what’s going to happen next. We’re only halfway through 2020 and we’re already dealing with racial issues, the coronavirus, injustice… even killer hornets! And it’s all so very real and so very immediate.
It's natural at times like this to react by going to one extreme or the other. What I want people to understand is that we find virtue between the extremes.
One extreme is to say, “the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and what we have to do is just ride it out.” The other extreme is blind optimism—“It’s all made up, ignore it, Where are those hornets, anyway?”
The problem with both these extremes is that, while they allow you to get through, in the process you’re ignoring real people’s pain and suffering.
So what I’m saying is that it’s in the middle of these extremes that you’ll always find virtue. Hope isn’t about either ignoring or wallowing: it’s about knowing that things are not okay, but we will be okay. Every problem has a remedy, and that remedy is Jesus.
Even if we are struggling, anxious, depressed, or burdened or weary, we can’t let those things define us. What we can do is bring those things to God. When we do, it doesn’t erase the problem, but it fixes our perspective. Instead of being “tunnel-visioned” on what’s wrong in the moment, we have a broader scope through which we see everything God has done for us—and the invitation that continues to lie before us. An example of a broader perspective is that we may be having a bad day, but it is just one day of our greater story that goes back to Jesus and the cross, and culminates in eternity.
Hope is that broader understanding. Hope doesn’t keep us (stagnant) in the moment we’re struggling with; it propels us into the future. Animated by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, hope should always direct us forward. It should move us to be a voice, a part of this moment that brings healing. Not just offering “thoughts and prayers,” but actually listening to other people. Hope propels us to self-examination, to healing; hope always pushes us toward other people.
Pauline Books & Media: Can you give an example of this hope in action?
Kris Frank: I’d love to! A teenaged girl in my ministry—a young Black woman, courageous, intelligent—was baptized last weekend. I’ll be honest, her home life isn’t great. Her family is not excited about her becoming a Catholic; there is a lot of tension and animosity there. Last summer at camp we were with her in front of the Blessed Sacrament and were praying, and what this girl heard in her heart was Jesus saying, “I’m here,” and inviting her to say yes, over and over again, yes. When the night was over, our priest came up and I invited him to do an altar call so she could commit herself to Christ, and again she heard that voice: just say yes. Despite the family animosity, despite all the obstacles in her life, she said yes. And now she’s been baptized. In the midst of everything happening in the world right now, she said, I am going to live for something more. This is the fruit of hope.
When hope is dormant, our lives become stagnant. But where hope is really alive through the grace of God, it will propel us to (love God and) others. Peter Kreeft talks about hope being “faith that is directed toward the future.” It’s taking what we know and reframing it with heaven and heavenly realities. We acknowledge that God promised something better for us, and we are going to work together… to get everybody there.
I have five children, and sometimes when I’m in the midst of them and they’re all screaming, it doesn’t necessarily feel like heaven! But hope gives me the perspective to know that heaven is there in that moment—I just need the eyes to see it. You see, hope doesn’t isolate. It makes us move toward each other, both in our individual families and together as the Body of Christ.
C.S. Lewis writes, “Aim at Heaven, and you will get Earth thrown in: aim at Earth and you will get neither.” Hope is what keeps us aiming for heaven while doing our best on earth.
Kris Frank's new book, Hope. Always. Our Anchor in Life’s Storms, is available now through Pauline Books & Media,.
Image: Marc-Olivier Jodoin for Unsplash