The solitary hermit, St. John Climacus, stressed the need to foster hope in order to persevere through any suffering.
It can be tempting to lose hope in dark times, especially when there is no end in sight. We may want to have a positive attitude, but circumstances don’t always foster that virtue.
However, one of the only ways we can endure such a hardship is by having hope.
St. John Climacus, a hermit of the 6th century, spent 40 years leading a solitary life, rarely having contact with anyone else. He was eventually put in charge of a monastery and a number of religious sought him out for spiritual direction. His wisdom was profound and his writings continue to inspire people today.
Pope Benedict XVI highlighted his life in a general audience in 2009, in which he focused on various lessons we can learn from his life. In particular, Benedict stressed the need to have hope, quoting St. John’s thoughts on the subject.
Hope is the power that drives love. Thanks to hope, we can look forward to the reward of charity … Hope is the doorway of love … The absence of hope destroys charity: our efforts are bound to it, our labors are sustained by it, and through it we are enveloped by the mercy of God.
The type of hope St. John is writing about is supernatural hope, a firm hope in the future and in what God has in store for his faithful disciples. Pope Benedict further explains this fundamental virtue.
Rightly, John Climacus says that hope alone renders us capable of living charity; hope in which we transcend the things of every day, we do not expect success in our earthly days but we look forward to the revelation of God himself at last. It is only in this extension of our soul, in this self-transcendence, that our life becomes great and that we are able to bear the effort and disappointments of every day, that we can be kind to others without expecting any reward. Only if there is God, this great hope to which I aspire, can I take the small steps of my life and thus learn charity.
Any suffering we experience can be endured with the virtue of hope. It sustains us in dark times and points us in the right direction. Instead of seeking consolation in this earthly life, we look forward to the life to come. All our actions can be ordered to this hope, giving our lives meaning and purpose.
If you are struggling right now, ask God for the virtue of hope, to be able to look past the daily disappointments and forward to the joy we are called to experience in the presence of God.