Practicing hope

March 28th, 2022

Lent 2022, I’m living with the poem Good Bones by Maggie Smith. Smith poignantly names the beauty and terror of our world, potential and promise bounded by peril and the brokenness of sin. Her final stanza captures this season:

Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.[1]

At the time of this writing, many of us are engaging the world with new hope as COVID-19 case counts decline sharply. Some of us are setting aside our masks for the time being and re-engaging with friends and activities that bring beauty and joy. Worship is starting to feel more familiar and less strange. Yet, on the other side of the world war rages in Ukraine as vulnerable citizens flee air raids and untrained ordinary folk are conscripted to fight. The United Nations recently released a report clearly identifying suffering and death due to climate change not as a future event but happening here and now.[2] Even leisure and recreation are marked by pain as the start of the baseball season is delayed due to a lockout. 

The most optimistic among us have grown weary of trying to look “on the bright side.” This is what Lent is for. Lent is a season of radical honesty, of truth-telling that can lead us not to determinism or nihilism or strident optimism, but to actual hope, actual good news. 

In Luke’s account of the resurrection, the women are perplexed because they have come to the place of death, to the tomb, and have encountered something unexpected and terrifying. Heavenly beings ask, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised.”[3]

Posttraumatic life is marked by a lack of closure. The women at the tomb get it! Their attending to Jesus’ death was incomplete. The prepared spices they brought that day remained unused. We understand their confusion and struggle. Much that unfolds around us is out of our control even as we experience new possibilities through reclaimed agency in some areas of life. To minister honestly, we need to acknowledge that doubt and faith can exist simultaneously as we live in a world marked by both crucifixion and resurrection. 

In her book Resurrecting Wounds, Shelly Rambo reframes resurrection in light of experiences of trauma as the eruption of life “amid the ongoingness of death.”[4] She writes, “Many Christians place their hope in the resurrection of Christ as a triumphant new beginning. And yet these proclamations of newness are situated within a context in which endings and beginnings, the old and the new, are much more porous. There is no clear-cut line separating the two; life is not a departure from death but, instead, a different relationship to death and life.”[5]


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Ministry in the aftermath of trauma does not seek to forget or somehow move past or “get over” the pain and suffering so many have experienced and continue to experience. However, the promise of the gospel is that we are not sentenced to be forever stuck. The gospel of Jesus Christ promises to liberate creation from that which binds and harms, to save us—even at times from ourselves. This is the greatest treasure the church can offer in the aftermath of intense crises and trauma. God’s people are powerfully resilient. The God who has been with God’s people throughout history draws especially near and continues with us. Resurrection life is erupting even in the midst of death. 

Clergy looking toward Easter preaching can scan our world with an eye to how resurrection life is erupting amid death. In the face of war in Ukraine and the humanitarian refugee crisis, a picture made the rounds on social media. Polish mothers parked strollers at the train station as a means of welcome, care, and love for Ukrainian refugees with young children.[6] This is a sign of resurrection life. In many communities, churches are repurposing parts of their property as gardens and urban farms. Protecting and nurturing green spaces that can absorb carbon and provide a cooling effect in urban areas is a sign of resurrection life. Recognizing that a baseball lockout will cause collateral damage for many workers who cannot afford the lost income, the Major League Baseball Players Association has started a fund of one million dollars to help support stadium workers and staff, including concession crews, electricians, janitors, ushers, security, transportation staff and broadcast crews.[7]

Gospel hope is not mainly a feeling that we passively receive. In the face of conflict and suffering, the Apostle Paul expresses the complexity of the good news of Jesus our ultimate source of resilience in ministry.

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.[8] 

Paul is unflinchingly honest about human fragility and the pain he and others are experiencing, but he is not destroyed or unmoored by traumatic crises in ministry. He called the church to active being-in-Christ so intimate that believers begin to shine with God’s presence in our world practicing hope and growing in faith as agents of resurrection life. 

Hope is a practice of active grace in our world, the opportunity to respond to God’s ever-present initiation and love. The event of Easter, resurrection is still unfolding, offering healing and life even and especially in places marked by death. The invitation of Easter is before us, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” “This place could be beautiful right? You could make this place beautiful.”[9]


This article is adapted from All Our Griefs to Bear: Responding with Resilience after Collective Trauma (forthcoming from Herald Press, November 2022). All rights reserved. Used with permission. 

[1] Maggie Smith, Good Bones, Accessed 3/3/22.

[2] Rebecca Hersher, “Climate change is killing people, but there is still time to reverse the damage” NPR, Feb. 28, 2022.  

[3] Luke 24:5-6, CEB.

[4] Shelly Rambo, Resurrecting Wounds (Baylor, 2017), 7.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Dan Evon, “Were strollers left at Poland train station for Ukrainian refugees?” Snopes,  Mar. 7, 2022,

[7] Jonathan Franklin, “MLB players launch $1 million fund for its workers impacted by MLB lockout,” Mar. 4, 2022,

[8] 2 Corinthians 4:6-10.

[9] Smith, “Good Bones.”

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