I once heard someone ask: “What is the most important characteristic a person should try to develop?” I found this to be a very thought provoking question to consider. Several possible answers immediately came to mind. Integrity. Trustworthy. Persistent. Grateful. Teachable. I’m sure you could add to the list, and a strong case could be made for the value of each one.
While we can all agree there are many qualities that are desirable as a part of one’s character, I am convinced there is one that is absolutely indispensable: HOPE.
I’m not talking about, “I hope I win the lottery” or “I hope my ex gets hit by a falling meteorite.” Those are just examples of wishful thinking! I’m talking about the kind of hope that gives you a reason to keep trying, a belief in the possibility that something better is just around the corner.
You may never have considered just how essential hope is, unless you’ve ever found yourself without it. Sadly, I have experienced the utter despair of hopelessness, that place of all consuming darkness from which there appears to be no escape. Though it has been many years ago, I still remember (and hope to never forget) the paralyzing fear, the overwhelming sense of desperation, and the painful acknowledgment of complete defeat. I had reached the end of myself. Game over.
I don’t recall consciously saying a prayer. I was pretty sure that, if there was a God, He most certainly, like myself and everyone else, had long since given up on me. Maybe something within my soul cried out to its Creator for help. Perhaps His eye really is on the sparrow that falls from its nest. However it happened, I am certain that there is only a Divine explanation for my escape from that place of darkness.
No, the heavens didn’t part. There weren’t any white doves or burning bushes. In my experience, God generally accomplishes the miraculous in simple, less dramatic ways. He tends to use people to accomplish his purposes. That psychiatrist at the hospital who shared a scripture instead of a prescription, an old friend who shared how his life had changed, new friends who encouraged me. One small candle after another lighting my way.
It is in those most desperate times that hope becomes like a rope thrown to a drowning man. You don’t question it or analyze it. You just cling to it for dear life. Sometimes simply having something, anything, to hold on to, is enough. But I don’t want to imply that hope is only valuable as a last resort. I believe it to be the foundation of everything we accomplish in life. One definition of hope is “a desire that is accompanied by an expectation or belief in its fulfillment.” Hope, therefore, is the driving force and motivation behind everything we do.
Without hope, why would you get up and go to work each day? Isn’t that desire and expectation of a paycheck what gets you moving? Isn’t it hope that says “if I work hard, I might get that raise or promotion”? Do you think any entrepreneur ever started their own business without hope? Has anything ever been invented without it?
It is with high hopes that we fall in love and get married. And if it were not for hope, the divorce rate would be 100%! Why keep trying?
What hopes do you have for your children. That hope, that desire for them to have the best life possible, prompts us to nurture them, teach and educate them, encourage them, and, when necessary, discipline them.
I remember several years ago, we were going through a time of change. I had been certain of the direction we were heading when it became obvious that following that path was no longer an option. I was confused, disillusioned, and uncertain as to what to do. My wife gave me a card one day. The cover read, “We don’t always know what the plan is, but we know there is a plan.” Inside was the following passage of scripture: “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” What a beautiful encouragement that was to me! Over time I’ve learned that starting with only the smallest seed of hope, and then acting upon it, will eventually produce faith, which the bible defines as “the assurance of things hoped for and the certainty of things not seen.”
Henry Ford once said, “Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you’re right.” No matter where you are in life right now, or what you may be going through, one thing is for certain: your future will ultimately be shaped and determined by the level of your hope, what you believe is possible. If you find yourself coming up a little short in this department, I promise that if you look around, you can find someone who will share some of theirs with you. There’s more than enough to go around, and I hope you found some here!