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Hanging On To Hope

Have you ever felt like all hope was lost?

It’s a terrible way to go through life.

I can remember times in my life when I really felt like there was no hope. Nothing was ever going to get better. My life, as I knew it, was over and all I could do was hang on until death showed up.

Egad! What a way to start a “Think Right Thursday!”

But there you have it.

Obviously, I got past that hopeless time, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this now. But in recalling that pain, it got me thinking about what hope really is.

I’ve talked about faith and positive thinking, and even about hanging on in the rough times, but hope has always been a mysterious blob in my thinking. I’ve never been clear on what hope is, and what it isn’t. Frankly, we use the word hope so loosely that it almost doesn’t mean anything anymore. The Bible says that the three most important things in life are faith, hope, and love. That tells me two important things about hope:

  • Hope is as important to God as love and faith
  • Hope and faith are two different things, so I need to figure out where that line of differentiation is

What Is Hope?

How do we define hope? And if we can’t define it, per se, then how do we describe it? Is hope a feeling, or is it something more?

The way I most often seem hope used in our current vernacular is to describe a feeling of anxiety that a situation will turn out the way people want. “I hope I don’t get sick.” ” I hope they pay for that.” “I hope our team wins.” “I hope I meet the right guy to marry.”

To me, that sounds more like wishing. Wishing can be defined as “feel[ing] or express[ing] a strong desire or hope for something that is not easily attainable; want something that cannot or probably will not happen.”

We talk about “wishful thinking” when we see someone longing for something they are not likely to get. It’s holding out for Prince Charming or a Hail Mary touchdown.

I was hoping the dictionary’s definition of hope would give me some clarity, but it just falls short: “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” That sounds an awful lot like the definition of wishing. It seems that something that plays an important part in the Bible should have a little more…I don’t know…substance to it.

What’s Missing?

I enjoy reading after Harvey Mackay, best-selling author of Swim With the Sharks. He has accomplished some amazing things in his career, so I figure he probably knows something about hope and believing.

In a recent column, he said,

“Lou Holtz always says you need four things in your life, otherwise you are going to have a tremendous void.  Number one, everyone needs something to do.  Number two, everyone needs someone to love.  Number three, everyone needs someone to believe in.  And number four, everyone needs something in their life to hope for. What do you want to do?  You have to have hope, ambition and dreams.”

Then he said something that clarified things for me: he defined hope as “wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen.”

Did you see what he did there? He took it from wishing to seeing the potential inside it to make it a reality.

He went on to say, “Just because something isn’t happening for you right now doesn’t mean it will never happen. Hope is the little voice you hear whisper ‘maybe’ when it seems the entire world is shouting ‘no.'”

Wow! I like that.

You can’t ever give up that “maybe.”

The Blueprint of Hope

I heard someone else describe it this way: “hope is the blueprint, and faith is the lumber.” The Bible says in the book of Hebrews that “faith is the substance (building materials) of things you hope for, the evidence of things you can’t see.” So, you need hope to have faith, but hope isn’t enough.

I could walk out into an empty lot and visualize a large office complex for my practice, but that’s all I could do. I have hope, but that’s all. A General Contractor can walk out onto the same lot, envision the same office complex, but he has something more. He can actually start the construction. He can order the supplies, hire the crew, finalize the drawings, and start giving orders. I have hope, but he has faith. What’s the difference? Action.

Is faith more important than hope? Not at all.

If I didn’t give him my vision for an office complex, he wouldn’t have any reason to order lumber. Without my vision for the future, there is nothing to give substance to. I can’t complete my vision without his substance, but his substance doesn’t do anything until we assign it to my vision. Does that make sense?

When Hope Seems Lost

If you don’t have hope, you don’t feel like you have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I know I’ve been in that place…maybe you have, too. It’s a terrible, debilitating feeling.

But here’s the key thing I want make sure you get: just because you don’t FEEL like getting out of bed does not mean you’ve lost all hope. As long as you are breathing, there is still a chance you can make your hope come to pass. Even if you FEEL like hope is lost, hope is not really lost until you are dead. As long as brain waves are moving in your skull, your vision of a better life can still come to pass.

Don’t let your feelings tell you otherwise. If you are alive, you can do something about your situation. That’s hope!! The chance that things can be better. You can choose to get it up, no matter how you feel. You can choose to forgive. You can choose to apply again. You can choose to make that phone call. You can choose to smile. You can choose to go back to work. You can choose to get involved in a broken and corrupt organization.You can choose to brush yourself off and try again. That’s how winning is done. Champions are not built by winning, but by getting back up when you lose because you believe you can succeed.

One Final Witness

Ultimately, God created our lives and He gave us the Bible as a User’s Manual for this life. Since the Bible places a high premium on hope (see above), then we should let the Bible explain how God defines it. This page has an excellent survey of scriptures on hope, and I encourage you to spend a few minutes thinking about each one. One thing I took away from it was that hope is based on knowing that God is alive, active, an interested in your success. As long as that fact is in play, you have a reason to hope, regardless of anything else.

I don’t want you to live another moment without hope. You can have the life you want, just hang on to hope.

What are you hoping for? Share it in the comments on Facebook. And then share the article. It just might be the thing that gives someone hope.

See you Monday.

“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles (putting action to your hope) is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas (and me)

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