Finding Rest in Hope

I’m having a pretty easy plague season.

I read the news and I know that out there are people who are very sick, who are dying or who have died, who have recently lost someone close to them. I know that out there are people whose life-work has been put on hold or disappeared altogether. I know that out there are people who worry about how they will feed their children.

And here I am, having a pretty easy time of it. What I do for a living is sit in a room and write; that hasn’t changed. I live in a county that has managed to keep its COVID numbers down because, by and large, residents maintain distance, wear masks, wash their hands. I personally know only a handful of people who have gotten sick, and only one person who has died. I feel guilty even writing about this pandemic because it hasn’t affected me in the myriad ways it’s affecting others.

And yet I’m tired. I’m tired of the precautions we have to take when we go anywhere. I’m tired of standing in a carefully distanced line at the grocery store. I’m tired of prefacing all my emails with hopes the person I’m addressing is okay. I’m tired of not being able to get together with friends for a trivia night or go to the theatre or occasionally eat out. These are not serious problems, and I’m actually quite embarrassed whenever I even think them, much less share them, but that doesn’t make them any less real. And I believe there are a lot of other people feeling the same thing.

The weariness we’re all feeling isn’t just because of the inconveniences of our daily lives in this “new normal;” it’s deeper. Bone-deeper. Soul-deeper. How much pain can we continue to bear seeing on the nightly news? How many more deaths today? When will this be over? Why are people suffering? Where is God?

And, right on time, all three of today’s readings answer those questions. “Salvation,” Isaiah reminds us, “we have not achieved for the earth.”

But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise
Awake and sing, you who live in the dust
for your dew is a dew of light…

As Isaiah knew him, God didn’t fit into the picture of utter injustice and misery rampant in eighth-century Israel. To God, as Isaiah knew him, persons mattered. God is making a very concrete promise to his people: there is something beyond your suffering, beyond living in the dust of pain and uncertainty. Hold on. Something else is on the horizon.

Psalm 102 is known as a prayer of the afflicted—a reasonably good description of what people are experiencing today. Earlier in the passage, the psalmist talks about going through a crisis, one that’s mental, physical, social, and spiritual. We know how he feels!

But now, in these later verses, he reveals how the story will end. We are going to experience—are experiencing—those same mental, physical, social, and spiritual trials. But that isn’t all. Like the psalmist, we have to rely on God’s word, and that word tells us this is not forever.

And then the words of Isaiah and the words of the psalmist make way for the words of Jesus, which show where his predecessors were going all that time, where their promises were leading: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,” he says, “and I will give you rest.”

That’s it. It’s that simple. Not simplistic, like magazine articles that promise 6 Ways to Feel Better or How to Relieve Your Weariness in 3 Days. Jesus is simply offering himself as the universal solution to everything that hurts, troubles, or burdens us. To all our weariness, our pain, our anger, our suffering. “I will give you rest.”

The only rest we can find, the only rest that matters is the rest of hope. This isn’t the frivolous idea of hope we express when we say we hope tomorrow will be sunny or we’re hopeful the Red Sox will win; this is a hope that is deeper, that is in fact one of the virtues. I recently had a conversation with Kris Frank, author of a book on hope and inner-city youth minister not unacquainted with people’s pain, and he told me that “it’s natural at times like this to react by going to one extreme or the other. But the problem with extremes is that, while they allow you to get through, in the process you’re putting aside everyone’s pain and suffering. So what I’m saying is that it’s in the middle of these extremes that you’ll always find virtue. Hope isn’t about either ignoring or wallowing: it’s about knowing that things are not okay, but we will be okay. Things have a remedy, and that remedy is Jesus.”

This is the hope that Jesus is extending to us today: that we can rest in the hope of Christ. And that’s what I’m holding on to as I put on my mask and grab my hand sanitizer for a trip to the supermarket. Isaiah gives me hope. The psalmist gives me hope. And Jesus promises me rest.

That helps me with my plague season. I hope it helps you with yours.

Contact the author

Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at