It’s amazing how much feeling hopeful can change your perspective and the atmosphere around you. When you are hopeful it’s like new life fills your lungs and begins to create a heightened sense of expectation for good. The Bible says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). It is the building block of faith. Without it you have no way to exercise and demonstrate the faith that you claim.
I think for a long time I’ve been living without hope. That could be a huge reason why my faith in God and faith in good was so diminished these last couple of years. I had very little hope that things were going to turn around for me. I tried to hope but it seemed like every time I got excited about something it would crash and burn right in front of my eyes. With so much going wrong around me time and again I almost sequestered myself to the reality that my life was just going to suck and that there must be something uniquely wrong with me. ‘”I guess I’m just supposed to have a hard life…”
Why bother? If all of your hopes just keep getting dashed you might as well stop hoping, right? When life gets you down it is so easy to adopt a pessimistic outlook and simply quit dreaming of better things. I call it the “mediocrity suck”. This is a time when you seem to enter some sort of black hole of depression whose pull towards mediocrity sucks you further and further into a life and lifestyle you never imagined for yourself. With time, in the name of exhaustion and “peace-of-mind”, you find yourself accepting less than what you ever imagined for your life.
When God suddenly shoots an arrow of hope into your heart in a season like the one just described you can handle it in one of two ways: You can cast it off and ignore it in a fear-induced effort to protect your wounded heart from further devastation. Or, you can accept it with open, albeit shaky hands, and allow yourself to be vulnerable in hope again. One response is cowardly and the other is brave. I’ll let you decide which is which.
Developing a hope culture in your life could be seen as risky and naïve to some. Hopeful people are often the types that others try to bring down “to reality.” Pessimists are all too quick to tell the Hopers to be “realistic” or to “get their head out of the clouds”. They’ll ever presently remind you how your expectations of life are too high or how frequently your hopeful ideas have crashed and burned in your past. It is important to remember that these are the words of people who have chosen to enter the mediocrity suck and haven’t found a way out yet. And their words to you are simply a reflection of their own inner struggles. Don’t listen to them! It can be a battle to regain or remain hopeful in a culture of negativity, but without hope you cannot walk in true faith. So battle on we must; battle ourselves, battle others who envy our willingness to keep pushing further than the status quo, and battle our incessant unseen enemy ever attacking our minds.
How do we battle, you might be wondering? Well, I recently got a couple keys to building and battling for hope from two pastors (Steve and Wendy Backlund) out at Bethel, Redding: First, the key to a hopeful mind is to have it renewed. “Unless you change the spirit of your mind, you’ll always wind up where you’ve always been. The highest level of spiritual warfare is the decision to think differently.” So, how do we fight and get this renewed mind? Here’s a few unconventional ways:
1) Laughter. The Bible talks A LOT about laughter especially the laughter of the Father in heaven. “He who sits in the heavens laughs.” (Psalm 2:4). It’s imperative that you follow the Fathers example and literally begin to laugh. Laugh at all the lies that you have believed about yourself. For example, I have actually forced myself to laugh on a daily basis at the lie that “there must be something uniquely wrong with me.” That is such a garbage lie! One that I believe we tell ourselves often. At first you might be forcing yourself to laugh and feel really uncomfortable, but before you know it your laughter will begin to become genuine and be truly healing. “A merry heart is good like medicine.”(Proverbs 17:22). The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized that it takes much to make me laugh. Laughter doesn’t just flow out of me when I am covered up with the cares of life, so I have to work at it. The more I free myself up to laugh, the less work it becomes and the more it just seems to come out naturally. You can laugh at lies you’ve believed (which takes the power from them), you can laugh at goofy stuff about life, and you can simply laugh just to laugh. Don’t think too hard about it! God has a great sense of humor! Where do you think humans got theirs? 🙂
2) Declarations. It is also important that we declare powerful faith statements over our lives. Faith statements or declarations are just that, statements of faith, by faith. It is your willingness to declare things about you or over your life (family, friends, etc) that may or may not be true just yet. It takes faith to declare faith! The Bible says, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17). The building of your faith and the eventual corner turning of your life is contingent upon you hearing the truth! Very few people are going to declare truth over you on a daily basis so you HAVE to do it for yourself. Reading the Bible is a great way to get doses of truth, but I would push you to take that a step further. Take what you are learning in the Word and start speaking it out over yourself, literally. A declaration might go something like this: “I declare that my past will no longer define me.” Or, “I declare that God is good and that He has good in store for me still.” These things might sound simple to say but you would be shocked at how much opposition your flesh will put up against you declaring stuff like this over yourself each morning. If you’re not happy try making the declaration that, “I am happy!” and see how hard it is to say! Our minds are conditioned to not say what we believe isn’t true, but if we don’t begin to hear something different we will never believe something new! And how will we hear if we aren’t willing to speak to ourselves? Steve Backlund puts it this way, “If you aren’t talking to yourself, you’re crazy!”
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” -Psalm 42:5
(A Bible author speaking encouragement over themselves!)
I know this can sound like “name it and claim it” mumbo jumbo but ALL of these ideas come directly from scripture. When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness, He didn’t think His way out of the situation He SPOKE His way out; He spoke to the devil, He spoke to Himself. You have to speak to your soul and your spirit. If you stay locked up in your head depression and joylessness will be your continual best friends. I have experienced such a massive breakthrough in my joy and peace by choosing to believe the hopeful word given to me by God and battle to build that hope through intentional laughter and faith declarations, among other ways. I want to see you walking in breakthrough also! Give it a try and let me know your results…
What are you waiting to hope for?