Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Good Times In Hard Times

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published August 20, 2009

These are hard times for a lot of people. Not a day goes by that there are not stories of stress and distress in the paper, stories about those who have lost their jobs, their homes, their sense of hope and well-being that are afforded by a steady income. For many people, a sense of a need for God is sharpened, a God who seems far away.

The pope recently made a plea to the peoples of the world to make a resolute search for hope. That search need not be very far for any one of us. It is, I think, a matter of seeking the living presence of hope as it is here, close to us. It is a gift that we can see, take heart in, and live from. In that way, we can be living sources of hope to others—for hope is not a gift to be possessed for personal use.

A woman in Los Angeles found a lost and negotiable check worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. She returned it to its owner, who rewarded her for returning it. The woman gratefully accepted the money, saying she would put it aside for a “rainy day.” There was no mention of God in the newspaper account. All around this story there were other stories of loss, stories that had no resolution of a found and happy ending.

Those stories would come later but would probably not find room in any print edition. They would be stories of people helping people, people comforting those who know terrible loss. They would tell of ongoing care being given by men and women to those who are lonely, desperate, in need of human kindness. I am not saying that these stories are not worth being put into print. But it seems that the need for space is too often taken over by a seeming avalanche of stories about loss and tragedy. The follow-up tales of true greatness and generosity rarely make it to the fresh morning edition. But they are there, all around us. We can take hope from those stories and learn the most important lesson that life can teach—that no matter how grim things may seem, something better, something good, something of grace is being born in response. It is where and how God moves through the seeming loss and rubble of life and makes a redemptive difference.

We may look to the beauty of the sky or the smile of a baby to measure the wondrous goodness of God. But it is important to remember that he is at his best in life’s in-between moments—those moments sandwiched between the glorious heights, when we do our best to return what was thought lost. It could be a check lying at our feet, or an apology to one we may have hurt, or a simple letter of thanks for a kindness received and long taken for granted.

History, for the most part, is silent. Remembered voices and stories are few, and it would seem that the ledger of the recordable holds more that is forever forgotten than remembered. But all along, God is at play, in the heart of a woman who returned something lost, in the words of those giving comfort to those who have known the loss of loved ones, in whoever leaves some small luxury behind so that others may have a better life. Stories like these happen every day—and will someday appear in the final evening edition of the news, the Good News.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery Web store at