Today, as I was reading a book , I was struck by the following quote, as it related to a young man with tormented sleep who saw no escape from the horrors his eyes had seen: “Despair is deadly sin, but worse it is mortal folly. The number of your friends is legion, and God is looking your way as attentively as ever he did. All you have to do to deserve is to wait in patience, and keep up your heart (125).” One of the reasons why physical courage is easier to maintain than moral courage is because physical courage brings glory, and because the danger is external and easy to recognize. Moral courage requires that we keep up our heart when the danger and distress may be known only to ourselves. Also, physical courage is the work of a moment, while moral courage is the accumulation of the work of a lifetime of wrestling with the darkness that has been appointed as our trouble for as long as we inhabit this life. Many of those who appear brave at first glance eventually collapse under the weight of the burdens that they are under.
For a variety of reasons, I am deeply interested in the problem of despair. I have stared long enough into my own darkness and its causes and repercussions, not that I really enjoy staring very much, except I do tend to get rather absent-minded when thinking and forget to change the way my head is pointed, to know that despair is one of my own enemies. How could it be otherwise? One of the most obvious consequences of a lengthy experience with trouble and difficulty is the loss of hope that one will see better days. For example, those who are afflicted with seasonal affective depression (otherwise known as SAD) need the frequent if not continual presence of sunshine to remind them of light, for the absence of sunshine in months of overcast and gloomy days sends them into a dark place because for whatever reason they are not able to summon up the sunshine themselves. We should not be too harsh on such people, for many of us, myself included, are people who must be reminded of the happiness, given the long-term overcast skies our lives have seen. My own struggle for hope in my life has been such that I have never felt able to condemn others for their own struggles or failures in this area. For truly I can cast no stones in such a matter without condemning myself as a hypocrite, for my own struggle to keep up heart has been a matter of public record.
Indeed, the issue of hope and its absence can be a life or death matter. My uncle David was a fairly solitary man, the favorite son of my paternal grandfather, and not the sort of person to openly admit any struggle that was not a physical fight. Yet after years of struggling with alcoholism and depression after the death of his father, he took his own life, unmarried with no children, about the age of thirty. I cannot say I remember anything at all about the man, because he was dead before I visited my father’s family in Western Pennsylvania, but his death still haunts me all the same. His death haunts me because it brings together a host of family issues in one tidy package. You have disastrous parental favoritism, a difficulty in relating to others, a struggle to marry and build a family, and the battle for hope that is a far more grim battle than many people may easily recognize. His death had reverberations in our family, in that it removed a hard-working farmer, whatever his own personal demons, and that the manner of his death led my paternal grandmother to reject the churches of her local community because they all refused to speak on behalf of an obviously troubled and tormented soul, and my grandmother refused to darken the door of a church that would not have mercy on someone who had taken his life in despair. For she, a hard-working and intense German farmer herself, and as hard a time as she had dealing with others on an emotional level, surely knew the sort of torment of her family, even though it seldom, and awkwardly, came out in conversation before her own solitary death when her own heart muscle failed her at last.
A hope that is not seen is not hope, but reality. We only have need of hope because we are created for the light but must pass often through the darkness. We are created for life but made acquainted with death. We are created for love, but our hearts are seldom whole without hurts and wounds. We are created for family but often no strangers to isolation, whether of our own choice or the choice of others to exclude us and be deliberately unfriendly to us. We are created for kindness but continually faced with cruelty, or with the reminders that we have been cruel where we should have been kind ourselves. In such circumstances, we all have need of hope, for we do not see the world that we were created for. We are discontented because we know we do not belong as we are, that we were designed for a better life than we may now enjoy, even if we do not have any idea how it is to get where we should be, as the road is unclear. Yet if we are condemned to travel a dark and lonely road , we have need of any light that we can bring with us to shine along the way, so that we do not fall into despair as we travel along the course of our lives.
 For a variety of reasons, this is a frequent area of personal musing: