While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Mark 3:35-36
I’ve thought about this theme recently from a number of inputs. It is an intriguing topic. So, what is “hope” exactly? Well, it’s dictionary definition is “an expectation and desire that a certain thing will happen.” Note the use of the word “will” – it is not “might” or “maybe”, but “will” happen. A certainty in your mind.
What’s the opposite of hope? When you don’t have any hope, you are termed hopeless. Why do so many of us lose hope when it is often the key to our lives? We may have faith – a faith in the living God, but we often lose hope easily. In the Mark passage above, Jairus’s daughter was gravely ill, and now he is told that she is dead. All hope just got snuffed out. But the story shows that believing in Jesus means that there is no situation or moment in life where there is no hope.
In his book The Power of Others: The Startling Effect Others Have on You, Henry Cloud describes a man who was finishing his Navy Seal training – one of the most grueling tests both physically and mentally – that a person can undertake.
He describes the final test called “Hell Week” this way: “Enduring near-hypothermia in cold water, long-distance swims during sleep deprivation, and intense physical strain, more than two-thirds of the candidates don’t make it through the training. And remember, they are all the best of the best.”
Cloud continues: “Whether it is physical pain, mental exhaustion, or both, most candidates lack the resources that will allow them to surpass their own limits and reach the next step, the toughest one required to become a SEAL. The entire selection process is set up to find out exactly where those limits are, who has them, and who can surpass them.”
Cloud’s brother, Mark was a Navy SEAL who died during the Iraq war. In talking with his brothers’ SEAL friends, he talked with one (Bryce) who shared that he was finishing the final test when he “hit the wall” as to his endurance. He was spent; his body basically said “I’ve had it”, “I’m done”, “I can’t go any more”.
He was swimming to shore when his arms gave out and he could not will his body to respond. He found himself sinking in cold water and was about to call for help when he saw a fellow SEAL candidate on shore who pumped his fist in the air and yelled “you can do it”. Bryce later described it in that moment “something happened”, “something beyond him.” He body was able to get back on top of the water and he finished the course and became a SEAL.
You see, Bryce, the sinking man in the water, had exhausted his own resources and had no hope, but his friend, through a simple of act of encouraging him to exceed his limits, gave him the hope that he needed. I love this story because it shows the power of hope can take us to a place where we couldn’t get on our own.
We often live in a state of hopelessness. But if you have no hope, you are truly meandering aimlessly with no purpose. It’s my belief that hopelessness is a core problem with our world today. The young men in the middle east and elsewhere who have no hope gravitate to terrorism because it gives them purpose, even though a twisted one. It gives them a reason to live.
A 2008 study shows that hopelessness is a root cause for depression and suicide. Another study of adolescents living in high poverty inner-city neighborhoods shows that hopelessness leads them to engage in high risk behavior, including substance abuse, violence and gang participation. Particularly alarming was that hopelessness among females produced promiscuity or even trying to get pregnant.
In the late 1990’s, I took a short golf vacation with my youngest son in Northern Ireland and we spent a couple of days in Belfast, a city that had been the heart of the sectarian conflict that plagued that region for decades. We paid a taxi driver to show us the sights, and he took us into places that were normally “off-limits” meaning that it was close to where actual violence had occurred recently.
When he said most of the violence had subsided, I questioned him as to the reason for improvement. He attributed the peace to the fact that Ireland’s economy was booming, going from an unemployment rate in the high 20’s to less than 7%. My conclusion was that it’s hard to be a terrorist when you are holding down a full time job. Put another way, the improved Irish economy reduced hopelessness – people had jobs and a future. Maybe this result can be a template elsewhere.
So where do we get hope when things seem hopeless? I think the answer is we get it from outside ourselves. First, as a Christian we get hope from Jesus, but this is different from having faith in God. In his book Unreasonable Hope: Finding Faith in the God Who Brings Purpose to Your Pain, Chad Veach describes a man named Michael who was stricken with a terrible disease when he was on a mission trip to Africa which affected his kidneys and almost killed him.
“[Michael] told me something he felt God was speaking to him: “You have so much faith in who I am and what I can do, but you have no hope for your situation.” He proceeded to tell me how God was dealing with his hope. He told me that he believes anyone who has faith should also have hope, but that many people are missing this key life ingredient.”
He’s right. Chad Veach continues: “How tragic would it be to believe that there’s a God who created the universe, to believe in the stories, songs, poems, and letters of the Bible, to believe in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, and to have all the faith in the world, but to not have any hope?”
So, where do you find hope? My answer is two places: First we have hope in Jesus, and can confidently place it in him. That’s part of our faith journey of putting our faith and hope in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Secondly, and as Henry Cloud notes, we get hope from others – those who are connected relationally who can come alongside and permit us to exceed our limits.
That’s what a mentor does – he walks alongside a mentee who may have doubts and says three simple things: “It can be done; “You are not alone”; and “I believe in you.” Whatever limits you thought you had, whatever the obstacle was in your path, the mentor can give you the hope to navigate the difficult seas of life.
Our challenge is to be a “hope-provider” for the next generation who may feel hopeless because so many things seem to be going against them. These are our future leaders: they need someone to come alongside in their journey and help them find their God-given purpose in life which provides hope of better things to come. They need to be the best they can be, and they need the help of others to get there. You can be that “other” in their life. You can be the person on the shore that shouts “You can do this” when they have hit the wall.
FURTHER STUDY: Hopelessness and reasons for living (2008): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763305/
Hopelessness of adolescents: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Bolland/publication/10904471_Hopelessness_and_risk_behavior_among_adolescents_living_in_high-poverty_inner-city_neighborhoods._Journal_of_Adolescence_26(2)_145-158/links/00b7d534c739329bf1000000.pdf
A paper on helping adolescents overcome hopelessness: http://www.academia.edu/197848/An_Intervention_Targeting_Hopelessness_in_Adolescents_by_Promoting_Positive_Future_Images
WORSHIP: Listen to Matt Maher sing Lord, I Need You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuvfMDhTyMA
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