I have been feeling pretty hopeful lately. A year into the pandemic, and now when I tune in to NPR to listen to the latest news, finally there is actually some “good” news. I was even able to see my grandparents for the first time in a year because they were able to be vaccinated. I remain guarded however, as if I cannot fully believe that these good times, better times, will last. I suppose what I feel is doubt.
Doubt, by definition, is a feeling of uncertainty or a lack of conviction. Hope on the other hand, is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, or a feeling of trust. Hope and doubt can exist at the same time, and arguably it is hard to have one without the other. Hope provides us with expectations and desires, leading us to trust in a person, situation, or belief. Doubt then feels like hope’s unwelcome companion, creeping up on us in our hopefulness, ready to make us question our trust.
My feelings of hope and doubt during the pandemic in many ways mirror my feelings of hope and doubt in religion. In the same ways that I hoped for a vaccine, for treatments, for relief for those suffering from illness, I hope that God is real, that there is an afterlife, that I am forgiven of sins. Those are things that I hope for, that I place trust in, as a Christian. At the same time, I find it hard not to doubt. I often find myself doubting the reality of and truth of religion, feeling like it is simply hard to place hope in the divine. At the very least, it is hard to be fully hopeful, to place full trust in religion and not have any doubts.
It is not just that I doubt, but I even find myself feeling naïve for having hope in the first place. How can I be rational and think logically yet also hope for the existence of something that I cannot see? In spite of this, these feelings of doubt and questions about naivete, I find that hope has a certain utility to it. Hope engenders within us an ability to see the good – in life, in the day-to-day. Hope in many ways is about trusting that when things go wrong in our lives, things will get better. Maybe our hope is misplaced and naïve, but as human beings maybe we need some hope to get through the day.
Hope in religion then, for me at least, is the promise that there is good out there, here on Earth or in the afterlife. Maybe I am wrong and when I die, I will realize that my hope in God and the afterlife was worthless. But is it really worthless if while I am alive it provides me with some peace and a strength to get through the day? In that sense, religious hope can be a sort of pragmatic approach to everyday life. It is not some certainty about my own religious beliefs that leads me to seek religion, but rather the hope that it provides.
Have you experienced doubt or hope in this season of your life? How do you engage these things through your religious/worldview perspective?