Researchers observe that hope is active, not passive. How would you describe your interaction with hope? Because we can hope for things with a healthy understanding of God’s sovereignty, and we can hope for things outside of that sovereignty. And the outcomes will bring you extremely different results based on which path you choose. And yet, how do we balance the active side of hope?
“High hopers” exert whatever degree of control they have to reach the things they hope for. Hopeful people identify specific, tangible goals. They see many pathways to reach this goal, and they nurture an “I can” attitude. High hopers don’t expect the pathway to reach their goals to be straight and easy; hope + optimism allows you to keep moving toward your positive goal when faced with negative events.
However, this is hope placed in oneself, in one’s creativity, and one’s own actions. When it comes to many things in life, this description of hope is more than adequate. But there comes a point in all of our lives when hope in ourselves–in our own goals, our way-power, and our willpower–is not enough. And what humans cannot do (i.e., defeat sin and death), God does through the crucified and resurrected Messiah, Jesus. When our hope is in Jesus, we know that our future is secure.
When you are discerning your hope, whether it’s in goals or spiritual outcomes, consider these five reminders to make sure you have the right hope in the right places.
- One step at a time. Recognize contexts in which you can and should exercise your hope muscles. What future outcome do you want to reach for? What is your dream for your future?
- Set SMART goals. When you recognize contexts in #1, then create future-oriented goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. This is the first step toward strengthening hope. What goals can you set that will take you closer to that for which you hope? How concrete and doable are the goals you are setting? Do they meet the criteria for a SMART goal?
- Cast your cares on God. But also recognize contexts when your only action is to cast your cares on God because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7), and meditate on Lamentations 3:21-23: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” Do you recognize those times when your own willpower and way-power are inadequate? When you cast your cares on God, can you release them to His loving embrace or do you take them back in fitful worry?
- Hope helps health. High hope people are also healthier people. They focus on “doing” instead of worrying and focusing on what they can control, not on what is out of their control. They are able to marshal their internal spiritual resilience and keep a positive, yet realistic, perspective on challenging times. Are you able to discern what you can and cannot control? Can you identify a daily time to step back, and spend time alone with God to regain perspective?
- Remember that God cares for you. Our loving, loyal God is the ultimate source of our hope. “High hopers” do not look at their negative circumstances as an indication that God has stopped loving them. They are confident that God is “for” them, no matter what the external state of their life happens to be. Is your confidence in God based on things going well for you or on God’s character as your loving Father? What can you do to remind yourself that God’s loyal love never leaves nor forsakes you?