Finding hope in the midst of chaos
Sometimes, it seems as though the world is falling apart.
When you stop to think, to really consider how much suffering, sorrow, and brazen evil humanity endures, it feels as though each day strains the seams of sanity, as though one more incident will simply be too much to bear. Each week brings another wave of trouble, and each wave exposes our weakness more and more. We imagine ourselves to be Atlas, struggling to uphold the weight of the world with all its woes. Weariness accumulates.
And yet, though I am often all-too-aware of the sorry state of society, I can’t stop thinking about a spiderweb.
Not just any old spiderweb, but a very specific one. I don’t quite recall what it looked like or precisely when I stumbled upon it; nonetheless, this spiderweb has stubbornly clung to the corner of my mind for weeks. It must have been an August evening, because the sun had just set, painting the sky orange and pink and beckoning to the northern Michigan nighttime chill. Ascending the stairs to the porch, I paused—perhaps my foot brushed against a splinter? Perhaps motion caught my eye?—and saw a spider diligently weaving a web between the branchlets of a cedar tree. And I stopped to watch as it worked. I stopped and did nothing except watch as it worked.
Looking back, I cherish this memory not because the spiderweb was particularly striking or because I found a deep meaning in the spider’s work. Rather, I love the peaceful pace of life that allowed me to pause for a minute or two to watch as a spider wove a web while the sun set and a night breeze stirred. I love that God created this world with such delicate intention. I love that, despite all the sorrow in the world, despite the never-ending fight for truth, life still offers endless occasions for joy.
Our sin-riddled nature often obscures the truth, goodness, and beauty abundant in the world. Our life in the Church Militant often feels too, well, militant. We fight the good fight, but we often feel helpless against the onslaught of evil. All too often, we forget to hope.
Hope buoys the spirits and tethers the soul. Hope is woven throughout life—in spiderwebs, in smiles exchanged with strangers, in the clean contrast of a roofline against a brilliant blue sky. Simple joys, though small, are scattered throughout each day, each composing part of God’s love letter to mankind.
All that is good in the world reflects the eternal Goodness of God. Creation bears the impression of the Creator.
We find goodness, strength, and peace in our Faith. Prayer serves as refuge from the endless bustle of daily life. In the cross, we find shelter, companionship, and deep, abiding love. Faith strengthens us to “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Christ accompanies us through life, and we need only turn to him, to the Sacraments, to the life of the Church, to be reminded of the victory which we are assured—the victory of life over death, the triumph of good over evil.
In community, too, we find great strength. It is not good for man to be alone, for we are beings meant for relationship. Life shared with others draws us out of our heads, out of existential dread, and into the reality of common experience. Together, we encounter joys and sorrows, multiplying celebrations and easing the aches of anxiety. When we share life, we heighten our capacity for attention to good, the true, and the beautiful. While much remains outside our control, the comforts of family and friendship remind us that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Yes, even the spiderwebs of life—those small, seemingly insignificant revelations of beauty—speak hope to the world-weary soul. Attention to detail, to the simple joys of daily life, gives us perspective. We need spiderwebs in our lives. We need to keep perspective. He who has eyes ought to see, ought to notice the good while combating the bad. Attention to the small beauties of life reminds us of that heavenly love letter which is both broad enough for all of humanity and particularly fashioned for each individual. We encounter God in these small joys. In the poem “Pied Beauty,” Gerard Manley Hopkins reflects on the “dappled things” of nature and their capacity for revelation. He concludes, “He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: / Praise him.”
When it feels as though the world is falling apart, praise him. Revel in goodness, truth, and beauty, and take heart. Providence has paved a way forward—a path embroidered with painted sunsets, companionship, prayer, and profuse hope. Fight the good fight, and keep an eye out for the spiderwebs of life. There is abundant cause for joy.
Mary Frances Myler is a senior in the Program of Liberal Studies with minors in theology and constitutional studies. Her ideal day would be spent hiking, swimming, and reading on the shores of Lake Superior. Drop her a note at email@example.com.
Photo credit: Luc Viatour / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) License