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An Excerpt from Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope by Joan Chittister

Joan Chittister is convinced that it is unrealistic in these tense and fearful times to write about hope without dealing at the same time with struggle. In these excerpts, she notes the importance of hope in all the world's religions and discusses how it is an antidote to despair.

"Every major spiritual revelation known to humankind, in fact, is based on the bedrock of hope. Hinduism sees life as the gathering of graces that leads, eventually, to the eternal dissolution of each of us into the energy that is God. Buddhism teaches the path to Enlightenment, to the end of suffering. Judaism lives in the life-giving law of God and waits for the Messiah who will turn an unjust world into the eternal glory of God. Christianity embraces the Pascal Mystery and its movement from death to life through the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Islam awaits the transformation from the physical burdens of this life to the spiritual freedom that comes with submission to God. Embedded in each is a spirituality of hope that imbues their followers with the power to believe in life, to cope with life, to live life, whatever the burdens that come with the daily dyings of life. . . .

"Hope is rooted in the past but believes in the future. God's world is in God's Hands, hope says, and therefore cannot possibly be hopeless. Life, already fulfilled in God, is only the process of coming to realize that we have been given everything we need to come to fullness of life, both here and hereafter. The greater the hope, the greater the appreciation of life now, the greater the confidence in the future, whatever it is.

"But if struggle is the process of evolution from spiritual emptiness to spiritual wisdom, hope is the process as well. Hope, the response of the spiritual person to struggle, takes us from the risk of inner stagnation, of emotional despair, to a total transformation of life. Every stage of the process of struggle is a call to move from spiritual torpor to spiritual vitality. It is an invitation to live at an antipodal depth of soul, a higher level of meaning than the ordinary, the commonplace generally inspires. The spirituality of struggle gives birth to the spirituality of hope. . . .

"Despair is a spiritual disease into which is built its antidote: hope. It is a matter of refusing to die at exactly the moment when we are being offered new life.

"Hope is not a denial of reality. But it is also not some kind of spiritual elixir. It is not a placebo infused out of nowhere. Hope is a series of small actions that transform darkness into light. It is putting one foot in front of the other when we can find no reason to do so at all.

"A Native American tale tells of the elder who was talking to a disciple about tragedy. The elder said, "I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one." The disciple asked, "But which wolf will win the fight in your heart?" And the holy one answered, "It depends on which one I feed."

"The spiritual task of life is to feed the hope that comes out of despair. Hope is not something to be found outside of us. It lies in the spiritual life we cultivate within. The whole purpose of wrestling with God is to be transformed into the self we were meant to become, to step out of the confines of our false securities and allow our creating God to go one creating. In us."

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Scarred by Struggle

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