Tips  on spiritual growth, emotional health, and relational healing.


Hope: Where Are You Looking?

Apr 4, 2017

Humans are amazing!

hope source group of people dancing sunset

Did you know that humans can live over 3 weeks without food?

These 9 people are “reported” to have gone anywhere from 29-70 days without food. Tell this to your kids the next time they claim to be starving after four hours without a snack!

Humans can live for 8-10 days without sleep.

In 1965, Randy Gardner went 264 hours without sleep (11 days). But in 2012, a Chinese man attempted to break Gardner’s record and he died on his 11th day without sleep.

Humans can live for about 100 hours without water.

Reshma Begum was pulled from the rubble of a factory sixteen days after it collapsed. She had no food to eat, but it’s believed she had a small water source to sip from regularly.

Humans can live for 3-5 minutes without oxygen.

That is unless your name is Stig Severinsen, the Danish free diver who held his breath for 22 minutes. But he cheated! He spent the 20 minutes before his dive hyperventilating pure oxygen.
So, you can live for a long time without food, less time without sleep, even less time without water, and not very long without oxygen.

But I’m not sure we can live a second without hope.


We Cannot Live Without Hope

This is the first post in a series of four articles on the subject of hope. If you’d like to receive future articles in this series as they’re released this month, then please enter your email below. In the meantime, I’ll send you my popular ebook on forgiveness for free!


What is hope?

One of the best definitions of hope I’ve found comes from Kevin Gerald.

“Hope is a stubborn, unrelenting determination to not allow the hardships of life to downsize the bigness of God.”

One of the reasons I love this definition is that it conveys the power of hope. All too often, hope gets castigated and marginalized because it is perceived as weakness.

Hope is essential for us to survive and thrive.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, we leverage hope to motivate our movements. Hope is what enables us to work on something today which will not be achieved for years (studying to earn a degree, designing plans for a building which years away from being constructed). No animals exhibit this kind of hope; only humans.

Hope is rooted in an unknown future.

I love what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” We know something is hoped for when we haven’t found nor experienced it yet. Hope keeps us looking ahead even as we’re unsatisfied in the present. Yet hope isn’t a guarantee; it’s more of an expectation.

Hope motivates our patience in the present

Later in that same letter, Paul says, “But if we hope for what we cannot see, we wait for it with patience.” Hopeful expectation sustains our waiting and carries us with perseverance.

hope source hands heart love painting

Where do we place our hope?

Wise people locate their hope in a secure place. Gerald’s definition is based upon a view which roots hope in God (“the bigness of God”).

Yet many of us (even those who believe in God) place our hope in other places.

We Place Our Hope in People

We’ve all looked up to someone – a boss, a coach, a teacher, a spiritual mentor. We admired them and put our hope in them, believing in the message they shared, in the change they were leading, or the vision they were casting.

At the same time, we also know what it is like when those people fell short of our hopes and expectations.

I can remember placing my hope in a leader I followed and admired. I believed he could affect change and lead us into a new future. If faced with the truth about what was broken in his area of oversight, I thought he would step up and make a difference. But he was enlightened and didn’t do a thing. (At least not like I thought he could or should). Instead, he blamed us for telling him the truth. This unmet expectation and blame was a blow. I never recovered.

When we put our hope in people, we will be disappointed.


We Place Our Hope in Organizations and Institutions

Many of us have been a part of organizations and institutions we believed in passionately. We bought into their mission and vision and gave ourselves to that work. We sacrificed ourselves and our money to see those ideals achieved.

However, the organization burned us. We discovered the gaps between the values on the wall and the “real” values. This is one reason why so many in my generation have weak institutional loyalty – those institutions haven’t been loyal to them.

(I’ve written about my battle with cynicism related to the church here.)

When we put our hope in organizations and institutions, we often get hurt and become cynical. We think every institution is that way (and they’re not). We think every institution has to act like this (and they don’t).


We Place Our Hope in Outcomes

We all have hopes for certain outcomes, taking action expecting a certain result. Typically, these results involve success (however we define it).

We give a speech and expect applause. We share a photo online and wait for the likes. Going all out and all in, we give our best at work and expect recognition (or even better, a bonus). We serve someone and expect gratitude.

But the gap between our expectations and the actual outcome is often wide. We don’t get applause, only crickets. We get two likes (and one is from our mom). We give our best and get fired. We slave away from someone and they point out one area we neglected. We think we’re leaving a legacy and then we leave and are forgotten.

We write a blog and expect a viral response, only to get a few pageviews and no comments (oh wait, that’s my issue!).

When we put our hope in an outcome, failing to experience it often leads to resentment. We resent those we helped. We resent the sacrifices we made. We resent ourselves for trusting.

What can we do?

Over the next four weeks, I’ll be writing about ways we can cultivate hope. I told a friend today I was writing about hope this month. His response? “Need a lot of that these days. Weird world out there.”

In the meantime, one thing we can all do today is to assess the object of our hope. We can do a hope-audit.

Ask yourself, “Is my hope in a person or a group of people? Is my hope in an organization or institution? Have I tied my hope to a certain outcome?”

The results of your hope-audit can reveal a place where you’re exposed. You may be basing your sense of expectation in something (or someone) who is not worthy of that weight. Your hope may not be as secure as you once thought.

Like you, I’m guilty of putting my hope in people, institutions, and outcomes (both past and present). I have the disappointment, cynicism, and resentment to prove it!

As I’ve processed those feelings, I’ve learned an important lesson.

The strength of your hope is based on the object of your hope.

All hopes are not created equal.

When I audited my experience with hoping in people, institutions, and outcomes, I realized my hope was much weaker than I thought. The leader I put my hope in was trying to do his best in a very difficult situation. Could he have done more? I think so. Was he dealing with overwhelming challenges I didn’t know about? I think so too. Maybe you realize the same thing.

Maybe you realize the same thing – you’ve placed your hope without wisdom.

The good news is we can make changes before we encounter more pain.

When applied to Kevin Gerald’s definition of hope (“a stubborn, unrelenting determination to not allow the hardships of life to downsize the bigness of God”), this lesson seems to indicate that the strength of one’s hope in God is based upon God. Perhaps this is why so many people of faith exhibit such determination and perseverance in adversity, which they attribute to the hope they have in God. It is God’s strength, not their own, which sustains them, even as they struggle.

If hope is as important as my friend indicated above, then we should all step back and explore where we’ve placed our hope. Once we reflect on the object of our hope, we can examine if and how that hope can sustain us.

Share a Comment Below

When has your sense of hope disappointed you? What was the object of your hope at that point? How did the letdown make you feel?

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