Have you ever exercised your arms to the point of exhaustion at the gym? You know the kind of exercise where you wake up the next morning and you cannot move your arms.
I had a friend in college who owned a boat. Often, in the spring, we would finish our morning classes and then spend the afternoon wake-boarding. On one particular afternoon, after a lot of falling on the board, we jumped on a giant tube and I got thrown from the tube, slamming into the wake.
It was an incredibly fun day. But, when I woke up the next morning, I had been sleeping on my stomach and I couldn’t move. It took me about 30 minutes to roll myself over, so I could get out of bed. I’m sure I was a quite a sight that day, barely able to lift my cup to take a drink.
No One Can Persevere on Their Own
These experiences of exhaustion remind of a story from the Bible.
One of my favorite Biblical characters is Joshua. And one of Joshua’s greatest victory was won in an unorthodox manner. When the people of Israel battled Amalek, Joshua led the army into battle. But the success of the Israelite army, according to Exodus 17:8-18, was directly tied to the arms of Moses, Joshua’s mentor. When Moses held his staff high, the army would be winning. But when Moses lowered his arms, the Amalekites would begin overtaking the Israelites.
So, two men, Aaron and Hur, gave Moses a stone to sit on, and each of them held up one of his arms. They did this all day and when the sun went down, the Israelites were victorious.
On his own, Moses would have never lasted through the day. In fact, he was fading when Aaron and Hur stepped in. While at other times in the Scriptures we see Moses struggling with pride and ego, in this instance, we see him humbly accept and embrace the partnership of others.
This story embodies an important truth…
No one can remain hopeful alone.
More Connected and More Isolated
While we are more “connected” than ever before (in a digital sense), we often struggle in more isolation than ever before, too. Multiple research studies have shown that those of us who scroll and scroll and scroll through our social media feeds feel increasingly isolated, even as we are more aware of the details of the lives and opinions of others. Technology has given us unprecedented access to each other, but in many places, it has failed produced greater intimacy with one another.
Without intimacy and in isolation, we’re experiencing unprecedented levels of personal vulnerability. Depression, anxiety, panic, and opioid use is at an all-time high. Many have described the mental health crisis facing the United States. I wonder if this battle for hope is hurt by our dependence on technology.
Would we find more hope and joy if we stopped scrolling and started connecting?
Staying Hopeful is Never Easy
As we face challenging circumstances in our lives, it becomes difficult to sustain hope. We all have days where we feel tempted to give up or give in to despair and negativity.
You’re working on strengthening your marriage. But you slip and take your spouse for granted. You start giving them your worst and not your best, leaving them feeling (at best) neglected, maybe even ignored. The frequency of fights increases and you start to wonder if you’ll ever be in a good place again.
You’re fighting your cynical mindset – you don’t want it to be your default. So, you choose to be more optimistic about a challenging situation at your church. You decide to assume the best about people, only to discover they’re just as flawed as you expected. You find out they made selfish decisions which hurt other people and they face no consequences. You wonder why you let yourself be positive again.
It’s not easy to remain hopeful and keep a positive perspective when we’re striving solo!
However, if we were able to share the struggle with the people around us, we might find (like Moses did) a resolve and strength to persevere until the point of breakthrough.
Other People Need to Know You Need Their Help
But, to do endure and overcome the darkest days, we’re going to have to be vulnerable with other people. We’re going to have to show more than the carefully filtered, edited, and prepared snippets of our life which we commonly post online.
Many of us don’t like the idea of letting other people into our struggles. We feel other people don’t care about our problems. Or we think others have enough to worry about with their own lives.
We make excuses.
“I don’t want to be a burden.”
“I’ve shared my struggles before and no one responded.”
“What if someone takes what I share and uses it against me?”
As a pastor and a writer, what I have learned again and again is people tend to admire our successes, but they connect with us through our struggles. Whenever I share in a vulnerable way, people lean in, not away. Sure, some of them make judgments and there a few with malicious intent. We may be wounded by a few, but we’ll likely connect with more.
Ask For Help!
If you need to renew your hope and restore your perspective today, then why not ask a friend to “hold up your arms”? What would happen if you let them see you struggle? What if you asked them for help?
Now, don’t ask over social media. I think some of you are rolling your eyes, but I had to say it. Someone was going to read this article and jump over to Facebook and overshare with the people they went to high school with over twenty years ago. This is a bad idea! Don’t post a photo of your arms and say #HelpAFellowOut.
Make a direct, personal request. And if they say no, say “thank you” and then move on to someone else. Don’t allow the response of one person to dictate your perception of everyone else.
Hope is never sustained by itself. The people you choose as your version of Aaron and Hur matter.
Maybe You Feel Like You’ve Read This Post Before?
As I reviewed my articles on this site over the last three years, I discovered how much time I’ve spent on this topic. Repeatedly, from various angles, I’ve written about the people we invite into our lives at the most personal levels. I think this is a recurring theme because I’ve learned who we share our lives with determines our future. Yes, our attitude, actions, and abilities are huge in the process. But our community around us plays a larger role too.
Who we share our lives with determines our future.
In 2001, I embraced my identity as a writer because my history teacher told me I was gifted with words.
In 2006, I embraced my role as a speaker because the people of Crash allowed me to be a voice for our generation.
In 2009, I began fighting cynicism and embracing hope because a friend asked me, “Where’s the hope, Scott?”
In 2011, I embraced my calling as a senior pastor because a mentor told me she saw that position in my future one day.
In 2013, I lost 25 pounds because a friend started sending me his workouts and encouraged me to start sending him mine.
In 2015, I embraced my future as an author because a coach invited to join a community of authors who were far beyond where I was, but where I wanted to be one day.
Who You Become Is Influenced By Your Community
Jeff Goins describes the power of people to restore our perspective and renew our hope in his new book, Real Artists Don’t Starve. The book, which recently hit the Wall Street Journal bestsellers’ list, details the power of a “scene” in helping artists thrive. Goins relates the shift in Ernest Hemingway’s writing career when he moved to Paris in the 1920s and joined the art scene led by Gertrude Stein. Hemingway had really struggled with his writing, but heard about this community of artists living in Paris. He found success when he moved and joined other artists who helped inspire him to create his timeless work.
Goins also details the genesis of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the epic saga rooted in Middle Earth, was one of 22 members of the Inklings, a group of professors at Oxford who gathered one evening a week to share their writings. Another Inklings member, C.S. Lewis, is recorded as making an offhand comment to Tolkien one day in response to a complaint about how stuck he was in writing the follow-up novel to The Hobbit. After hearing Tolkien’s draft, Lewis noted, “The life of Hobbits are most interesting when they leave the
Another Inklings member, C.S. Lewis, is recorded as making an offhand comment to Tolkien one day. Tolkien had complained about feeling stuck in writing the follow-up novel to The Hobbit. After hearing Tolkien’s draft, Lewis noted, “The life of Hobbits are most interesting when they leave the Shire.” It was in that offhand comment that Tolkien found his angle and launched into one of the most popular fiction series ever. (Where I should note, the Hobbits leave the Shire and go on an epic adventure.)
Who Can Help You Hold Up Your Arms?
I’m not sure what you exactly need to do next. Maybe you need to take a spur-of-the-moment trip with a best friend or schedule coffee with a mentor. Maybe you need to have lunch with one of your parents or make a phone call to your coach. You could schedule a Skype call with a friend who now lives hundreds of miles away or get on a plane and pay someone a visit.
If you want to reset your perspective and renew hope, then your next step likely involves someone you know speaking into your struggle. Someone could be holding your arms, so you don’t have to go this alone.
Now, It’s Your Turn
What’s your next step to regaining hope? Who do you need to invite into this struggle with you? How can they help hold your arms as you fight for hope and persevere today?