Hope v. Hopelessness

I have been a Christian all of my life. I began to study Stoicism 3 years ago. In the last two months I have begun study Buddhism.

Three traditions founded on different ideals but all following similar universal truths.

Hope – a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Oxford Languages

Hopelessness – a feeling or state of despair. Oxford Languages

It would seem obvious that no one would want hopelessness and everyone would want hope.

But is it so obvious?

Christians define hope as the belief that God will deliver what he has promised, everlasting life.

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s live has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

As seen in the above Scripture hope is not easy. It is built on suffering and endurance.

Hope is not focused on worldly issues. We must turn over whatever happens to us to God in the hope of everlasting life

Buddhists define hopelessness as wanting nothing other than what is happening in the present moment.

“But if we totally experience hopelessness, giving up all hope of alternatives to the present moment, we can have a joyful relationship with our lives, an honest, direct relationship, one that no longer ignores the reality of impermanence and death.” – Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

Hopelessness is not about despair. It is about being present and not wishing that things turned out differently.

It is about focusing on what is in front of you with an openness to the possibilities.

Stoicism tells us to focus on what we can control.

We control our emotions and our reactions. We don’t control what happens to us.

When looking at these three ideals, I feel the key is to have hope that tomorrow will be better than today. To live with hopelessness that this moment is what your life was meant to be no matter what is happening. To do this, we need to focus on what we can control and not get caught up in what has happened to us.

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