What hope is, what hope isn’t, and how to find it in hopeless times.
Hope is not optimism. It’s not toxic positivity. It’s not a promise of future success or progress. And it’s definitely not something that can be reduced to a scripty-font platitude on an Instagram post.
So what is it?
One thing is certain: real hope demands that we do something with it. That we live it out. That we use hope to participate in a bigger story playing out behind the bleak world we see on the news or in our social media feeds every day.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a person of faith, or someone disillusioned with faith, or someone who hardly ever thinks about faith: if you’re a human being who longs for a spiritual counternarrative to live by, this book points to one resilient enough to endure crises and crushing defeats. If you’re tired of hearing about some heavenly hereafter amid the pressing need for justice here and now, this is a book about hope for this world—not the next.
After exploring what hope isn’t and then what it is, MaryAnn McKibben Dana reflects on the surprising place where hope is often found—in the messiness of our imperfect, flawed, beautiful human bodies. In the second half of the book, she talks about making hope real: sharing hope through stories, cultivating hope through simple practices, and nurturing hope in hopeless times—when only real hope can persevere.
Table of Contents
1. What Hope Is Not
2. What Hope Is
3. Hope Lives in the Body
4. Hope Travels in Story
5. The Practice of Hope
6. Hope Beyond Hope
“I can’t say enough wonderful things about MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s latest book. You must stop everything you are doing and read it now! Hope: A User’s Manual is a well-researched, thought-provoking, and wise guide to approaching life’s most unexpected and difficult moments. This book will be one I return to often for encouragement and share with many.”
— Elizabeth Hagan
author of Brave Church: Tackling Tough Topics Together
“In a culture that far too often proffers either platitudes and positivity or disdain and despair, MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s latest book, Hope: A User’s Manual, honors complicated questions while offering practical pathways to hope. She draws on a wide range of resources and, in the end, enables the reader to imagine, and even craft, a more hopeful story for themselves and for our world.”
— Jill J. Duffield
author of Lent in Plain Sight: A Devotion through Ten Objects
“I have recently rediscovered a hymn that is quickly becoming my new favorite. The chorus is a repetitive ‘O Christ, surround me. O Christ, surround me.’ As I read Rev. McKibben Dana’s book on hope, I found that refrain echoing in my spirit. Her words about hope surrounded me with a renewed sense of the presence of the Holy. She reminded me of the courage that has sat dormant in my spirit over these last couple of years. I will move forward with a deeper appreciation of how hope is an action and not just a feeling. (And goodness knows I love a good, subversive action!) By doing so, I anticipate being even more deeply immersed in the presence of God who always surrounds me. I am thankful for her persistent, consistent, wonderfully disruptive reclaiming of hope.”
— Shannon Johnson Kershner
pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago
“In an era when fear seems to have gained the upper hand, MaryAnn McKibben Dana has produced a much-needed ‘user’s manual’ on hope. Drawing on her own rootedness in faith as well as personal experiences and keen insights on the human condition, MaryAnn’s book lives up to its name. Anyone who needs motivation in these challenging and often discouraging times will find this volume, which includes reflective questions and suggestions for action at the end of each chapter, a helpful tool. MaryAnn openly shares her own struggles in a disarming way, and provides strategies for faithful, hope-filled living in a style remarkably free of ‘churchy’ or theological language. I highly recommend this book to those who need encouragement to ‘keep on keeping on.’ Perhaps that includes all of us!”
— Charles Yoost
senior director of religious life and pastoral care at Lakeside Chautauqua, Ohio