Where is the Hope?


My ninety-year-old friend is as old as this tree and has lost a sense of hope during the disasters of late.

People uprooted. Lives upended.


The destruction reminds her of the bombing in her land of origin when she was a young girl. She wonders if mankind is doomed, asks if there is any good left in the world. Her moist eyes are clear and questioning and laden with sorrow.

In all parts of the globe and here in the United States, heart-shattered humanity reels with the episodic devastation of natural disaster. Indiscriminate hurricanes and funnels, torrential floods, seismic fissures, volcanic eruptions, raging wildfires, melting ice flows, and bone-dry drought deliver cataclysmic consequences to our varied lives.

Displaced, some become refugees in their own countries. Some don’t even have a country.

Sometimes it feels like the earth itself is groaning.

Where is the hope?

Even the upright and enduring Job had a hard time making sense of the catastrophes happening one after the other in his life and he complained of God uprooting his hope:

He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone; And He has uprooted my hope like a tree.
—Job 19:10

What is it about the concept of roots being plucked out of the soil that speaks so poignantly to one’s own personal circumstance? Perhaps it speaks to the end of a relationship, job, or health. Perhaps it speaks of rampant hatred, oppression, or poverty. Perhaps loneliness. Whatever the deep ache swirling in our hearts, the metaphor of roots ripped out of the ground gives a mental image of destruction and loss.

Many people equate roots with home and of memories, family, and sustenance. When the framework of a dwelling is obliterated by tragedy, the cruel reality of physical and emotional devastation may seemingly demolish the roots of one’s existence. But where exactly do our roots reside?

Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.
—Wallace Stegner

How is it that some people shelter the concept of roots and home within them in an interior dwelling of the heart?

Roots are not in landscape or a country, or a people, they are inside you.
—Isabel Allende

Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
—Hermann Hesse

“When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow
Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That’s all right, my love, ’cause you’re my home.”

— “You’re My Home” (a song by Billy Joel)

Withered roots begin to grow?

Thank God for the willing hands, hearts, and prayers of relief workers, volunteers, first responders, medical teams, financial supporters, charity and faith organizations, and governments who reach out to victims of natural disaster. It’s understandably easy for those unaffected geographically to carry on daily living in an absent-minded complacency. But the devoted humble service of people “rolling up their sleeves”  inspires awe. Countless individuals put their own lives on hold by reaching out to help the hurting.

And then somehow .  .  . the soaked and wind-thrashed are dried and warmed; the fire-parched receive water and rain; the unearthed step to solid ground; the swollen-bellied swallow food; and the village rebuilds.

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.
—Amelia Earhart

Here is something I stumbled upon recently. It may seem ironic to be looking for examples of hope in the natural world when nature itself seems to have acted out lately. Nevertheless, I found these trees.

Felled tree produces two new trees growing from trunk

Look closely at this pine tree at the edge of a hiking trail in the forest! This tree is completely felled and lay horizontal on the ground. Two additional trees have grown up out of the original trunk. Wow! Who would have thought this possible? Resiliency prevails at the core and roots!

And here is a Ponderosa Pine struck by lightning. The charred wood seems to penetrate the very heartwood. But alas, the tree thrives! Look at the branches growing green from its trunk.

Ponderosa thriving after lightning strike

We weep in distress when humanity suffers and cling to the possibilities of love and kindness.

Back to Job and his hope being uprooted like a tree . . . Besieged by great suffering as chronicled in the wisdom book bearing his name in the Old Testament, Job accuses God of creating a world of chaos. In human terms, Job simply can not understand the purpose of his turmoil. He’s lost virtually everything. He suffers at the deepest levels. He blames God but at the same time he continues to speak to God. He almost entirely despairs but manages to hold a glimmer for the future restoration of God’s higher good. And God mercifully responds. God replies to Job directly in descriptive words and illuminates creation as a place of divine order created with beauty and spontaneity and freedom. And then something amazing happens. Job finally sees and acknowledges his mortal lack of understanding and he acknowledges and praises God for His sovereign wisdom and power.  Once uprooted like the roots of a tree (19:10), Job’s hope and life are restored:

… I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
—Job 42:3

…I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you.
—Job 42:5

Thoughts and prayers to everyone impacted by the storms, quakes, and fires. To anyone living with pain, loss, or heartache, yes, understanding will come and Love will heal the wounds.

Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.
—Theodore Roethke

Thanks for stopping by.