Where There Is Despair, Hope

Where there is despair, hope

I am preparing a class on the St. Francis prayer. This prayer while not necessarily straight from St. Francis is a portrait of the life he led. This was his life. From the moment he saw his first vision until his death he lived the words of this prayer. He was and still is a vibrant example of the gospel life. While this prayer may or may not be original with St. Francis it describes not only who St. Francis was, but also what a life following Christ really looks like.

I would like to reflect on each line. I have posted my thoughts on this prayer once before and you can find that blog on this site. I may even write a book based on this prayer.

The fifth line of this prayer is life transforming. It offers both the person praying the line and the one being prayed for a glimpse of God’s rule. In life, there are times of despair, loss, and defeat; hope offers the assurance of facing and overcoming times of darkness. The fifth line of the St. Francis Prayer is about being a presence of encouragement. There will be times when we pray the lines of this prayer for ourselves, when we need God’s love, faith, hope, and peace in our life. God won’t zap us with these attitudes, but will give us moments in which to experience them in our life and the lives around us.

People and families are hurting. War, unemployment, bullying, discrimination, obesity, illness, addiction, and financial difficulties are on the raise. Our government is divided and getting more so with each passing day. Churches are divided. Despair is on the rise and hope is missing in action. This line asks that God’s hope overcome our despair. As long as we are breathing, there is hope. As long as we have faith in God and His Kingdom, we have hope in the presence of despair. Our story has not ended. We are being asked to join the grand story that God is telling.

Stephen King tells us to “Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”  Hope lives eternal. Jesus on the cross showed us what it means to love in the face of hate, to bring faith to doubt, and to bring hope to despair. The poet Shel Silverstein says, “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” We should listen to the reasons why it won’t happen and then laugh, because in praying this line and others like it we are affirming our faith in Matthew 19: with God, all things are possible. All things mean all things. This doesn’t mean that God will grant our every whim and wish, but it does mean that no matter what assails us we can and will get through it. I have had heartbreak. I have made it through. When I let God into my heart, life is much smoother; when I devise to run the show things are next to impossible.

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