Friday, June 18, 2004

Chesterton and the Virtue of Hope

I have recently gone through a period without a job, and am still in a kind of “holding pattern” waiting for a handful of things to take place which will go a long way toward fulfilling my personal dreams. Recently, another friend of ours has been let go at her job and doesn’t know where to go or what to do. As a part of the process I went through during that time, I reflected on the virtue of hope. We hear a lot about faith and love, but we rarely hear about hope.

Hope, like faith and love, is an interesting virtue in that it is only needed, and we only really get a chance to exercise it, when we least feel like being hopeful (or faithful or loving). We can certainly hope when all looks positive and the world is all as it should be, but that is not the virtue of hope. The virtue of hope is worked in us when we need to place all our hope in Christ and His omniscience and benevolence when there is nothing else in which to hope. We only truly know that God is our only hope when we have been sufficiently disconnected from the things of this world which vie for our hopefulness.

And I don’t think it is a coincidence that hope is described as a virtue. Our character goes through a great deal of alteration when we find ourselves in a position to need the strength of this virtue. Will we crumble under the circumstances and give up on God’s goodness and wisdom, or will we look to God’s unknown plan as something which is better than anything we could devise, especially in our seasons of distress?

Here is another great snippet from Chesterton’s Heretics on the topic of hope:

Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate. It is true that there is a state of hope which belongs to bright prospects and the morning; but that is not the virtue of hope. The virtue of hope exists only in earthquake and, eclipse….For practical purposes it is at the hopeless moment that we require the hopeful man, and the virtue either does not exist at all, or begins to exist at that moment. Exactly at the instant when hope ceases to be reasonable it begins to be useful.


G said...

Well, thank-you for writing this post, albeit over three years ago. I needed to read this in these wee hours of this morning, August 31, 2007, upset as I am over my 16 year old son's addictions to drugs and alcohol.

Precisely because neither I nor anyone, nor any consequences have thus far made any difference, I will (yet once more) stubbornly put my steadfast hope in God and in His help for my son. I had been flirting with despair tonight, and don't ask me how I happened upon your post, but, as you can imagine, it was surely a God-thing.

Thanks and God Bless.

Phil Steiger said...


It is so good to hear this was an encouragement to you! Reading it again, I had forgotten the context of the post, but looking back, I can affirm the faithfulness of God, and the value of hope in Christ. I heard someone say recently that as long as there is breath in our lungs, with Christ, there is always hope. That seems right to me!