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From positivity to hope

It is a struggle to maintain a positive attitude, this was especially true during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic when personal losses and sadness consumed so many.

Molly Cahill reflects on how she initially tried to suppress negative emotions but eventually turned to prayer as a way to express frustrations and questions to God. Through this process, she discovered the virtue of hope, which she now views as distinct from positivity. Hope is the belief in a better future despite present difficulties. It’s possible to have hope even when going through tough times. God’s timing can bring an end to suffering and bring blessings. There is solace in the psalm’s message that we will eventually see “the good things of the Lord in the land of the living,” even if it may take time.

Cahill writes in America:

I’m not a positive person by nature. Worries and problems have a way of consuming my mental energy; the thought pattern is powerful enough that the small beauties and graces of each day often can’t compete. But since a positive attitude is such an asset in our culture, this is a quality I’ve always tried to claw my way out of, trudging up the metaphorical mountain toward some much more serene and enlightened version of myself who never fails to smile and be grateful for what she has.

During the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, this became much more difficult to do. In the face of my personal losses and those of friends and strangers, I was sad half the time and furious the other half. Well-intentioned encouragements to “just think positive” or “count your blessings” or “remember that everything happens for a reason” only made it worse. It felt like there was nowhere for my disappointment or anger to go, since stuffing them down in favor of a disingenuous smile was becoming impossible.

Both things are true: Our trials and tribulations are real and not to be minimized, and at the same time, God’s time will bring our suffering to an end—and will even bring blessings amidst suffering.

It was then that my prayer life started to look like a laundry list of woes. Most conversations with God were about the negative emotions I felt unable to direct elsewhere; some conversations seemed to be made up of just about one word: “Why?” Initially, I felt guilty about this. Was God going to be tired or uncomfortable in the face of my bigger feelings? Should I be sprinkling in some lighter conversation topics just for good measure? But very slowly, I began to experience an important transformation.

As bringing my low moments to God without shame became a habit, I started to see a way out of them that, to me, felt deeper than our culture’s reverence of positivity, and that was the virtue of hope. While I once might have associated hope and positivity closely, I came to understand hope as something that didn’t concern itself so much with the present moment as it did with the future….

Read the full article here.

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