“And after all the evils of the world had been unleashed, at the bottom of the box lay Hope”. I’ve just reread the Greek story of Pandora’s Box – a story of despair and hope. The beautiful Pandora was created and sent by Zeus as a punishment for two men who had disobeyed him. She was a beautiful bride, but she came with baggage – a box which she was commanded never to open. She resisted for as long as she could, but eventually desire got the better of her, and she opened the box.
To her dismay, instead of the beautiful gowns and jewels she had been expecting, out flew all the evils of the world – misery, poverty, ill-health, greed, injustice and so on. Once all these had been unleashed upon the world, Pandora was filled with despair at what she had done. In great fear, she looked back in the box. There in the bottom lay Hope.
I was drawn to this story as the celebration of Easter approaches. We celebrate Easter (rightly) as a time of new beginnings, new life, and the triumph of good over evil. Whether we go to church, or simply exchange chocolate eggs as a symbol of new life, Easter Sunday is a glorious reminder of hope.
And yet there is another part of Easter that is increasingly overlooked, and that is the despair of Good Friday. Also sometimes called Black Friday, it commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. This was a day filled with despair and hopelessness, not only on the part of Jesus’ followers and family, but also Jesus himself, who felt God had forsaken him.
How many of us have felt that black despair? Times when all hope seems gone, when our world is full of grief and suffering, when we can’t see our way forward, and feel we have fallen into a pit of hopelessness. Or times when, like Pandora, we are faced with the evils of the world, and we feel overwhelmed and broken. In the Easter story, there was the period between Christ’s death and resurrection when it seemed the despair was justified.
And yet, somehow, it is in darkness and despair that hope is born. Not just an airy-fairy sense of hope, but the kind of hope that can sustain us and keep us going through the hard times. Hope that can change lives, communities and nations. Hope that may exist despite all outward circumstances. Without it, we are lost. With it, we can find the strength to go forward, to work for change, and to carry a beacon of light.
The process of the transition from despair to hope can be tough and difficult. Mostly there is no alternative scenic route to take – we have to go through it. And this takes it’s toll on us emotionally, psychologically and physically. We do not emerge unscathed. Perhaps the best we can do at this time is to honour the despair, acknowledge the reality of the loss we are feeling, and be compassionate towards ourselves.
To me, the real power of the new life and hope of Easter is that it rises from a place of despair. It is an affirmation that once the worst has been done, hope will still triumph. It may start small, like the hope in the bottom of Pandora’s Box But it can be the life-raft we cling to when we are struggling to hold on, and the building blocks we need to work for a better tomorrow.
Have you been in such a place? Did you find hope? How? Did it settle on you quietly, or did you actively seek it? Are there ways we can build this hope? Ways that we can carry it for each other? Is there ever a situation that is truly ‘hopeless’? Do we ever need to change what We’d love to hear your thoughts- keep scrolling down for comments.