It is incredibly difficult to remain hopeful and confident in our faith in God with so much tragedy, violence and hurt going on throughout the world and in our own lives each day.

Recently, numerous acts of senseless violence have seemed to rock the world, leaving us asking questions we all want answers to: "Where was God? Why did He allow this to happen?"

Recent Sunday readings from the book of Daniel and the Gospel of Mark spoke of the end of days, the apocalypse, when the world as we know it will seem like it is crashing down all around us -- an image that one hopes would never become a reality in our lifetime. As we turn on the news each day, we are flooded with one tragedy after another, some on a massive scale and others that hit way too close to home.

These and our own personal sufferings can make us feel that we are living in our own apocalypse, and that the hope we hang onto has dwindled down to just a thread, vulnerable and unprotected, fragile enough to be broken at any moment.

Holding on, remaining faithful and trusting in God is no simple task. I know in my own life that there have been numerous times where I have let go of my end of the string out of frustration or sadness.

Yet, a quote I heard a long time ago has always come to mind when I find myself feeling hopeless these days: "No matter how long you have traveled in the wrong direction, you can always turn around."

This simple turnaround summarizes so much of our faith, our abandonment of any sense of hope and our ability to return again, like the prodigal son being welcomed home. All those times I felt I could go it alone, I would have realized sooner how wrong I was if I simply turned around, back toward the Lord, who was there waiting -- with the same promise, the same offer of forgiveness, still holding His end of the rope, waiting for me to grab the other end.

That little string of hope -- our connection, faith and trust in God -- is stronger than we realize. Christ is at one end, just waiting for us to turn around and grab hold once again, promising that this will not be the end for those who hold onto His final, everlasting word!

Death, tragedy and heartache are not the end for us or for anyone who believes in Him. These words, Christ's eternal promise, are what is written within that single strand that we hold onto either firmly, loosely or not at all. Those seemingly simple words are an unbreakable covenant on Christ's end, a perpetual invitation for all who believe.

Although we do not know when the day will come when that promise will be fulfilled, we are asked to do only one thing: to keep hold of that seemingly fragile strand and trust in Him. With it comes the fulfillment of Christ's promise of eternity in heaven, where He will gather both the living and the dead and "He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no more death, mourning, wailing or pain."

I believe that, when that time comes, any part of me that wanted answers to those two beginning questions -- "Where was God? Why did God allow this to happen?" -- will float away with that strand I no longer need to hold on to, as Christ has made that hope a reality.

This future reality of an everlasting peace in heaven with the Lord is something that we not only pray for daily during our holy hours, but also something that we as future priests are taught at seminary to focus on in our efforts to evangelize the world. As future servants of and for the people, we are to be models of that peace we pray for -- to truly be Christ-like in all aspects of our being, so that others can be encouraged to lead similar lives as they grow in holiness and love for the Lord.

Our formation program is centered on helping to transform the seminarians of today into the hope-filled and joyful priests of tomorrow: priests who will help lead people to God, so that, one day, the Lord will welcome us all into the kingdom of heaven for all eternity with Him in His everlasting peace.

(Deacon Kelly is a seminarian studying for the priesthood for the Albany Diocese at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. A native of Newtonville, he was formerly business manager at Holy Trinity parish in Cohoes.)