May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
My last two posts which covered some pretty dark topics for Gen Z: burnout and negative attitudes. Both involve an attitude of feeling hopeless. It leads to the question: How do you find hope in a hopeless world?
Hope is defined as an expectation that a certain thing will happen (not “might” happen or “maybe”). It’s the opposite of hopeless. Why do so many in the next generation lose hope even if they have a faith in the living God. They lose hope all too easily.
A 2008 study showed that hopelessness is a root cause for anxiety, depression and suicide. Another study of adolescents living in high poverty inner-city neighborhoods led them to engage in high risk behavior such as substance abuse, violence and gang participation.
In the same study, hopelessness produced promiscuity or even trying to get pregnant. This is not just an American phenomenon. An African friend was dismayed to learn of a relative who turned to prostitution because of hopelessness – the feeling that no one wanted her and the inability to find a way out.
My African friend reached out to her wayward relative. She took her under her wing. She affirmed that God had a purpose for her life and that abusing her body was not the way forward.
This is important stuff. As a casualty of depression, I personally know how hopeless one can feel. What helped me? Well, my spiritual life took off when things got dim. My close friends surrounded me when all looked bleak. I turned to God and friends when I didn’t have any other solution.
The power of friends in your life can be a remarkable source of hope. Some people exude hope. Take Dean Smith, the storied coach of UNC basketball. He permeated hope. He gave a positive quote for his players to contemplate at every practice. He personally wrote notes of encouragement to many of his players long after they graduated.
In 1974, when the fourth ranked Tar Heels were down 8 points with 16 seconds left against their rival Duke, Coach Smith called a time out and said, “We’re in great shape! We’ve got them right where we want them. Isn’t this fun?”
While the score looked insurmountable, his players made an unlikely comeback, including a last second 30- foot bank shot by Walter Davis to tie the game. UNC won in overtime and the game is viewed as one of the all-time great comebacks in college sports.
I remember it well. I was sitting about 25 feet from Walter Davis when he made the game-tying basket. I will never forget that moment. Hope fueled a victory against overwhelming odds.
Hopelessness is a delusion which has an enormous effect on our belief system. It can suck life out of us. Hope can provide resilience where others fail.
Most of the surviving POW’s of the Vietnam war attribute their survival on their faith. Those without faith often didn’t survive. Faith gave them hope when all seemed hopeless despite inhumane treatment by their captors.
In fairness, there is no one-size-fits all cure to finding hope. But coming alongside someone in the next generation who is facing adversity and feeling hopeless may be the best thing that one can do.
Paul, in the midst of troubles said, “may [we] be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 13:3-4). He was right. My friends could not feel what I was feeling, but they never left my side.
Social media actually isolates heavy users from developing close confiding relationships. Isolation leads to negative thoughts and it goes downhill from there.
Tony Dungy quit football in high school due to a conflict with his coach. Leroy Rocquemore, a junior high teacher who believed in Tony’s well being, came alongside to mediate a solution with Tony’s coach.
Tony went on to become an All-Pro defensive back and coach of an NFL team that won the Super Bowl. The trajectory of his life would have been very different if someone hadn’t taken an interest in him.
Even when Tony felt hopeless, God used someone to inspire him not to give up. There are a lot of Tony Dungy’s in the next generation, but not many Leroy Rocquemore’s who come alongside when life seems hopeless.
The challenge here is that the next generation and particularly Gen Z are especially vulnerable to feeling hopeless, often because they are isolated and without a good support network.
It’s easy to see the world as a hopeless place without input from close friends or mentors. You can be a Leroy Rocquemore to someone in the next generation. All you have to do is develop a relationship with someone in the next generation.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Telling a member of Gen Z that you “believe in them” and that “they are not alone” speaks volumes. That’s not complicated; you don’t have to be a Dean Smith or a Leroy Rocquemore to be an encourager.
FURTHER READING: Kingdom Nuggets in Dealing with Depression Faith Magazine
WORSHIP: Listen to Yes I Will – Vertical Church which has the following lyrics:
“I count on one thing
The same God that never fails
Will not fail me now”
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