HOPE AND HOPELESSNESS
Where is your ‘hopeometer’ today? How high or low is your hope level?
A definition of hope says that ‘hope is an optimistic attitude of mind based on expectation and desire’.
It says that ‘hope allows people to approach problems with a mind-set that anticipates success.’
So, hope is an expectancy for the future, but hopelessness expects nothing, it gives up. Hopelessness is the belief that we can’t change things, so we shrug and give up.
In 1965 Martin Seligman discovered ‘learned helplessness’. He found that when animals are subjected to difficult situations they cannot control, they stop trying to escape. They become passive. Human beings are the same.
If we experience constant defeats, or a persistent situation that we feel can't change, then we can lose hope that anything will ever change.
If we can’t get a job, or can’t afford a home, or have a succession of broken relationships, our whole expectancy from life is eroded bit by bit, until just like the animals giving up, we can become passive.
Losing hope, we accept the status quo as being our new level of normal. Sometimes we may blame ourselves for getting ourselves in this mess.
We might say that it’s all our fault that we can’t manage life, can’t make friends, or succeed in getting a job.
The fault rests on us and everything is all our fault.
Or we can blame circumstances, seeing them as being beyond our control, there is nothing we can do, we are powerless.
Or the most common, we blame others, “it’s not my fault, it’s all their fault”.
Whatever the reason, a lack of hope can be a downward spiral.
When you don’t have hope, you embrace the status quo, having no energy for any effort to change anything. Our lives becoming like a parched desert, empty, dry, and lifeless. All hope of change perhaps gone, and we are so tired and weary of it all, we can’t muster up the energy any longer to do anything about it.
Dr Brandt worked with lepers. People who were either born with no sense of pain, or through the disease of leprosy they lost all feeling and could no longer feel pain. Because they didn’t feel pain, they were oblivious when they put their hand in boiling water, or got too close to a flame. They were constantly harming themselves because of a lack of pain.
So, Dr Brandt invented a device that could be worn that would warn them of danger.
It would bleep when danger was near. You would think that this device would have been appreciated by those who kept hurting themselves? But no.
They didn’t like the inconvenience of being warned of danger, so they turned it off, and burnt themselves instead. They would rather injure themselves than be bothered by the effort of change.
They had slipped into embracing the status quo. They couldn’t be bothered.
It’s very natural if you have known pain and upset, to want to avoid it. Whether its physical pain, emotional or relationship. If we get hurt, we instinctively want to protect ourselves from being hurt again, we can tend to pull away, and the more we do, the more we reinforce our negative slide. We get battered and battered, and in the end, we stop trying to escape, we live in the compromise, or we give up and walk away. Eventually without even realising we discover we have slipped into hopelessness.
Lee Knifton who was the head of Mental health Scotland said, “very large numbers of people in Scotland are experiencing high levels of stress and it is very damaging”
Mental health is at an all time low, not just in Scotland, but across the world. It is at epidemic proportions.
Why is this? Covid lockdowns have created all kinds of problems for people, but the problem of growing hopelessness has been happening for a long time. So, what is the root of the problem?
Personally, I think one of the key factors is selfishness. We have been sold an illusion that if we get what we want we will be happy and content. But we never are. Hope has to have something that we can pin our hope to. There is always a basis, or a foundation to the hope we have. Perhaps the problem today is that we are told ‘WE’ can be that foundation.
Self-fulfilment and self-determination.
It’s all about self.
Isn't it ironic that in our desire to be happy, to do what we want to do, and have what we want, we end up losing the key element that makes it all worthwhile, we lose our hope.
If ‘we’ alone are the foundation of life and hope, if it’s all about me, oh boy, that is some fragile foundation in which to place hope!
The bible says “we reap what we sow”. If we sow entirely into our self and our own interests, we will reap selfishness and hopelessness.
Hopelessness, isn’t always as visible as we might expect. We can all put on a brave face and pretend, but beneath the surface all is not well.
The Japanese have a theatre style called Noh, and within it, actors wear masks called Omote to demonstrate different emotions. When this style was introduced, the Japanese culture frowned on letting others see outward emotion, so they used masks to show emotion.
Not much has changed, we can all live behind masks of some kind. The world puts on a mask of freedom, self satisfaction, and care free happiness, but it can be just a mask. The darkness, loneliness and lack of purpose can lie just beneath the surface
Ask anyone who has attempted suicide and you will find the motivation is rarely because they want to die, its because they want the pain of life to stop.
They want the darkness to go away. The sense that life is so empty, pointless and meaningless, can be so painful and over powering, they just want to be swallowed by the darkness and the pain to stop. The world with all its new found values and so-called freedoms, is becoming more and more self obsessed and is losing more and more hope.
But there is hope.
There is a light in the darkness, a light at the end of the tunnel. There is new life, and new purpose. And His name is Jesus.
That’s why we are going to be running the hope course. It lasts three sessions, during which we will watch a video, answer some questions, have some discussions and learn what Christian hope really is.
The first session is focussed on learning about hope, the second is about peace, and the third is about purpose.
Wherever you stand on your journey, You don't have to stand alone, there is hope.
We can all face our future with great expectation, because God is already preparing it for us. The bible tells us that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Rom 8
God will work out His purpose in our life if we allow Him to.
Hope is readily available to all of us.
Jesus says, place your hope in Me. Let me lead you and guide you. Hand over the reigns of your life to Me, and let Me shape your future. This is the hope that should underpin our lives.
This is the hope, the certainty, that no matter what comes our way, we know for certain, nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Yet the world tells us there is no certainty
Benjamin Franklin said 'there are only two things certain in life, death and taxes.'
Pliny the elder, one of life’s great philosophers said 'in these matters the only certainty is that there is no certainty'
How can you live with no certainties? Where do you pin your hope?
The world needs to acknowledge that there is such a thing as truth and certainty.
Because it’s on the foundation of certainty, that hope becomes established.
As a Christian we can know for certain that whatever comes our way, we can be sure God is right there with us.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does notdisappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5 v1