If excessive reliance on material things and dependence on people mar the purity and strength of our hope, nothing crowds out hope in God so much as hope in ourselves. Often we don’t realise that when we think we are trusting in God we are really trusting in ourselves, in our own goodness, our own power. It is only when failure, contradictions, sufferings and disappointments crowd our days and we find ourselves drained of strength and lacking in all resources, that we discover how much of our hope was a pretence. Like the Pharisee we stood before God confident in our own virtue, sure of the future because we were sure of ourselves. The testimony of a good conscience was for us a matter of complacency; our ability to do good deeds with alacrity was all the proof we needed that Heaven was just around the next bend in the road. Never in our hearts did we doubt our worthiness to enter into eternal life.
But now the Providence of God allows all our hidden faults to come to view. Our friends are shocked by their glare, but not as shocked as we are. The external failures and our obvious inadequacies are only the half of it. What is far worse is that God seems to be doing a thorough job of house-cleaning in our souls and is stirring up the dust we thought we had successfully hidden. Before our eyes He lays bare our miseries which we never had expected even existed. What we thought was a well-stocked larder of virtues proves to be in us a cupboard of pathetic bareness. Not daring to behold the emptiness of our souls we turn away on the verge of despair. For now we have slid all the way down from the heights of presumption to the depths of disgust.
Yet this is the hour above all “when our redemption is at hand”. For now we realise at last our need for mercy, and we never realised it before. Now we are ready to seek God and come before His face- not because we are good, but because we are learning at last that He is good.
Did you ever as a child break your leg and then after weeks of having it in a cast learn how to walk again? There was a thrill about it, a joy, a sense of humility and gratitude. “look I can walk again. “
There is something akin to that in the soul after God has given it a thorough drubbing. After beholding its misery and sickness and being condemned to watch helplessly while God shows it its powerlessness to do anything of good, when at last He gives it the grace to perform some little act of virtue, it is thrilled with delight. It can walk again, but the soul knows that it is all His doing. He is the reason for confidence, for hope, and we hope in Him not because we are good, but because He is good.
From Ch V on Hope