When things are deeply difficult and profoundly painful, what might I hope for?

It is understandable I might hope that my circumstances will change. If I live in Syria or Iraq, it is understandable I might hope that war would cease. If I live in Nigeria where one million children die every year before their fifth birthday, half from malnutrition, it is understandable I might hope for a more adequate distribution of the world’s food resources. If I have a family member suffering from chronic mental illness, it is understandable I might hope for the perfect medication or a miracle change in body chemistry for my loved one.

For many people it is unrealistic to assume they will not hope that the situation of their lives might change. Tragically, for many people it is often unrealistic to hope that things will be substantially different in the near future.

This is not a council for despair, but for realism. False hope is worse than no hope. We make better choices when we decide with our eyes wide open and our hearts attuned to realities as they actually are.

In Germany after 1933 as the Nazi government began to excerpt increasingly draconian measures against the Jews, many Jews chose to hope things would soon improve. Many people turned a blind eye to the undeniable brutalities of the Nazi regime and rather than fleeing when they might have, chose to remain until it was too late. They were not well-served by their hope.

What does it mean to have hope in the face of the reality that certain difficult situations are unlikely to change in the immediate future?

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