Everyone has an Eeyore in their lives. He’s the perpetually downcast, hopeless little donkey in the Winnie the Pooh stories. And while he’s the ultimate downer, we can all identify with him, maybe we even ARE the Eeyore in our circle of friends. Spending time with one of these folks can leave you exhausted, because all of your energy is spent trying to fill their bottomless pit of despair. Ugh. And yet there’s something endearing about old Eeyore. He’s like all of us on our worst days—that dark, secret, self-absorbed part of us that sees no reason at all to get out of bed, much less to rise and meet the day with gratitude and hope.
But hope is the fruit of our faith in Jesus Christ. Hope is being confident in the promises of Christ, knowing with certainty that He will never disappoint. To live without hope is to, in effect, reject the salvation that Jesus died to offer us. If we’re hopeless, we’re no different from the unbeliever. And it’s an easy habit to fall into, and a dangerous one. A quick look at Holy Scripture makes it pretty clear that if we follow Christ, hope should be the anchor of our lives. In Hebrews, we read that hope is “the conviction of things not seen”(11:1). Hope is not a feeling nor is it merely wishful thinking—hope is a conviction. St. Paul writes that hope is an “enduring virtue”(I Cor. 13:13) and that “love springs from hope”(Col. 1:4-5). Hope is that gift which allows us to understand and persevere through suffering, pain, and disappointment (Romans 5:2-5). “Hope does not disappoint”(Romans 5:4). And maybe the most profound teaching of all is in St. Paul’s letter to Timothy: “Jesus Christ is our hope”(I Timothy 1:1). To be alive in Christ is to be infused with the virtue of hope—not like Pollyanna, but like any of the great Saints who lived in hope despite suffering, torture, and death. Hope takes us out of ourselves and places our hearts at the foot of the Cross.
But we have to cultivate the gift of hope, just as we exercise the virtues of faith and charity. And sometimes, we get it wrong. Here are a few ways to know if you’re an Eeyore:
1) You’re fearful and anxious—a “worrier.” You are afraid of life’s challenges and opportunities. You fret excessively about money, status, or what others think of you. You have unfocused fear that sometimes paralyzes you into inaction.
2) You’re a complainer. A hopeful heart is one that is grateful and praises God even through the bad times. Without hope, every small bump in the road of life is an injustice.
3) You blame other people for your problems. If you’re not living in hope, it’s easy to point fingers at others whenever things don’t go your way. Your family, your teacher, your boss, your ex—it’s their fault that things are a mess. You constantly compare yourself to others, and are perpetually disappointed.
4) You’re a drama queen, or king. Hopelessness exaggerates any small suffering in your life. It’s the worst, the most horrible, the most unfair (fill in the blank) ever! You are easily discouraged and you look to others for sympathy and affirmation.
5) And maybe the clearest sign of failing hope is pride. A prideful heart tries to do everything for themselves, rather than giving God control and embracing His will. Humility and hope go hand in hand. The more we grow in humility, the more we rely on Christ for everything and, as we know, He never lets us down. Want to be more hopeful? Pray for humility.
Faith, hope, and love are virtues that we need to exercise through prayer, fasting, and sacrifice. Ask God to increase your hope. Surround yourself with hopeful, encouraging people. Read about the Saints who are examples to us of great hope and ask them to pray for you and to help you to grow. Remember all the blessings God has given to you. Gratitude grows hope—the more grateful you become, the more hopeful you’ll be. Our Lord holds our future in His hands, and we needn’t worry or be anxious.
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”
—-St. Pio of Pietrelcina