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“Ask a Priest: Is There Cause for Hope?”
Q: Can you tell me what else I can do besides praying night and day for peace and empathy in our world? It is hard not to enjoy the beautiful gifts God has given to me, without realizing everywhere I turn that there is endless suffering and hatred. Sometimes I wonder what heaven will be like, because only there will I know that suffering doesn’t exist. Please tell me whatever ways you think can help me cope. I enjoy volunteering when I can. I donate to the animal shelters when my finances permit, and I have a wonderful job as a nurse assistant helping the elderly at a nursing home. And I know that statement sounds as though I’m getting on a soapbox or something, but I just want to illustrate that I am trying to help others. And it does make me feel better. But at the end of the day I still have an awful depression hanging over me, knowing that there are people who are dealing with far worse things than I am. – B.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: You are feeling what a lot of people are feeling nowadays — a sense that the world is a hopelessly nasty place that we can’t do much to change.
The world has a nasty place, thanks to original sin and its fallout. Genesis gives us a taste of this: Soon after the fall of Adam and Eve comes the infamous story of Cain and Abel.
Perhaps a few ideas are worth mentioning here.
First, God hasn’t given up on the world. In fact, he sent his own Son to suffer and die on a cross for our redemption. If Jesus hadn’t come into the world, the world would be a much nastier place. And he didn’t wait for the world to improve — he jumped in and offered a new message.
That message has transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people. One result is that there is a lot of good around us that we can see.
Second, Jesus is God, and even he didn’t convert the world. We shouldn’t hope to do it, either. But we aren’t asked to change the world. We are asked to help change that little part of the world that God assigns to us.
That part of the world might be the nursing home where you work, or your family, or the block on which you live, or your parish. Use your energy to help the people around you, and you will have a sense of improving at least some lives.
Beyond the work, it would be good to cultivate your prayer life and sacramental life. That is one of the best ways to nourish a sense of hope. Do this, and you will better help the world, for your growth in holiness gives glory to God and lets him work through you more effectively.
At the end of the day it’s God who is in charge. He has his reasons for allowing evil to thrive here and there. Our Lord can bring good out of evil. His timing might be mysterious, and his ways might be mysterious, but that is to be expected. God works at a much higher level than we do.
It’s good to remember that Christianity isn’t about cursing the darkness. It’s about lighting a candle and dispelling the darkness little by little. In God’s time, not ours.
For more reading you might look at Peter Kreeft’s Making Sense Out of Suffering and Heaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing.
To further fuel your prayer life, you might consider listening to one or more of our Retreat Guides. I hope some of this helps.
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