Though hope is a gift, it demands that we recognize it as such, accept it, cooperate with it, make it our own. Hope is a virtue, a theological virtue explicitly and directly concerned with our relationship to God. It is at once a gift and our activity. We grow in hope precisely by being hopeful, by acting hopefully. Hope must be exercised, even in the face of what seems hopeless, and especially in the face of our own feelings of hopelessness. Now, how do we grow in hope? . . .

Hope moves through three steps. The first is the recognition that what I hope for I do not yet possess or see with any clarity. Second, I recognize that what I hope for may be difficult to achieve. Third, I see that even though what I hope for may be difficult, seemingly beyond my grasp, I do stand some chance of having it. It just might be possible. . . .

Hope strains ahead, rooted in the conviction that there may be a way out of whatever difficulty is at hand, that things can work out even though it may appear to the contrary. Hope is that inextricable sense of the possible, of what might be. Without guarantees, hope struggles to find a way over each hurdle, one by one, and to find or make a path past every dead end. Hope emerges as our own resources seem to fail us, when we come undone in the presence of a paralyzing situation that seems without possibility. What brings us to despair is the feeling that we are at an impasse from which there is no escape. Yet, even if we are stopped in our tracks, hope finds a way.

Michael Downey, Hope Begins Where Hope Begins