Our world seems to turn to the negative quickly as well. You may feel a Woe Is Me, and the response around you is pilling on, you think you have a woe, you should see my woe. If you think you have trouble, you ain't seen nothing yet, see my trouble. We can be competitive in our successes and in our difficulties. It's human nature.
Even in the sports world, that is supposed to help take our minds off of our doubts and despair, there is doubt and despair. Just a month ago, the press seemed to be ganging up on the Washington Nationals manager because they were playing so poorly, ready to dump him, ready to criticize his decisions and the one who decided he should be the manager. Well what a difference a month can make. They are playing very well and are the hottest team in the National league. There are some examples of doubt and despair turning around.
It's easy to jump on the band wagon of despair and doubt. Mob Mentality is very much a real thing. Even reasonable people who have great responsibilities can get swept up in negative thoughts. "Send her back" can make many people move into even more doubt and despair.
Having faith does not excuse us from this struggle with the dark night of the soul, and St. Francis is no exception. He was in a dark period for almost two years before he was able to break free of the struggle and turn doubt into faith and despair into hope. His dark period was because he was afraid that his success and influence on his faith would dissolve after he was gone. He was afraid that the impoverished people he was relating too would be forgotten as his movement increased in influence.
John Wesley had the same fear that the movement to transform people would lose it's momentum and become like a monument to religious zeal, rather then continue to bless others with new found faith and discipleship. He said he was worried the people called Methodists would lose their vitality and have the form of religion without the power.
God understands our despair and doubt and as we celebrate Christmas in July and sing carols and read scripture, it is to remind us of what the Prophet Isaiah said from exile in Babylon 700 years before Jesus came along. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in pitch-dark land, light has dawned." Isa 9:2 (CEB).
Jesus knew our every circumstance, which makes him such a great Savior. His mother's reputation was destroyed when they found she was with child before the marriage. Taxes were imposed and his family had to travel 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the registration and taxation and there was no room for them in the Inn, so Jesus was born in a manger with animals.
As a young child the King decided to kill all the boys in town, so Joseph and Mary fled with the boy Jesus and they became refugees to Egypt. After Herod's death they went back home. Jesus worked in a carpenter shop, and fulfilled the family obligation of first born, to work until all his siblings were out of the house. So he began his ministry at age 30.
It went well at first, but as time went on he continued to challenge the way people lived the faith life in his day. He ended up being betrayed, abused, false accused, condemned to death and crucified. Talk about doubt and despair. Faith and hope came back at the Resurrection.
Do you remember ever being rescued? Some one came along and helped you to find your way when you were lost? Or someone, a grandchild perhaps, got your phone working again? Do you remember the feeling of the turn around, of renewing your faith? Do you remember a restoring of hope? It usually came by the help from another who was able to turn your despair to hope and your doubt to faith.
Faith can have two components. One is Faith-trust, accepting who Jesus is as God's Son and a resource for forgiveness and new life. The second is Faith-Belief, where you begin to recognize that what God has to offer you is going to be good. Hope is accepting God's future and provision for your direction and guidance.
Jesus said as much in the sermon on the mount, and one of my life shaping passages of scripture, shared by my parents, so often. "If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than the birds.
Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch> ( it was such a shock for me to hear this, because I have tried to be taller for a long time as a teenager.) All this time and money wasted on fashion - do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers - most of which are never even seen - don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You' ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met." (Matt. 6:25-33 Message)
The secret to turning doubt to faith and despair to hope is in following Jesus's example and seek first what God wants.
Sister Clare, the leading woman who helped other women follow St. Francis's teachings finally found a way to help Francis out of his doubt. She prepared a feast for him and his brothers to remind him of all that God has provided for him. Like the above passage. Remember the resources of Jesus are available to you. His resurrection shows us that God can overcome every circumstance, including removing the fear associated with death, because there is Resurrection and eternal life.
Do you remember how good it felt to help someone else? A time you rescued someone, a time you helped another? Did you tutor? or serve a meal, or gather clothes to share with a refugee family? The secret to the Instrument of peace is to SOW again, a small step that turns despair into Hope and doubt to Faith.
Remember St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, reminds us that Faith and Hope are important, but the greatest of these, is Love.
I'm reading a book by Alice Connor How to be Human, a book about her ministry with young college students at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. She urges those who are just growing in their faith to "Try It, You'll Like It!" a bold move to do what God shows us to do. Yoda even said this "No Try, Just Do!"
So as you develop your instrument of peace, do, the sowing of hope and faith. Do reach out to those who are in despair and doubt. Bring rescue and renewal to the very people you know could use the Peace that is proclaimed in this prayer. Get involved in doing good. Correct a wrong. Grow in your faith and understanding, so you will have the right motive and direction to offer faith and hope. The knowledge of God is not to swell your head, but to help swell your heart. "Try It, You'll Like It!"