Of all the remarkable things I’ve seen hope do in my life and in the lives of others, these four things stand out:
- Hope liberates. Hope releases you from your past.
- Hope motivates. Hope helps you bounce back.
- Hope initiates. Hope sets you free to dream again.
- Hope activates. Hope is the fuel that makes the world a better place.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting with a leading psychologist who told me something amazing. He had built his career around working with deeply troubled married couples who had been damaging their relationships for decades. He enjoyed remarkable success in getting these warring spouses to turn the corner toward health. Counseling is not my greatest gift, so his obvious skill sparked my curiosity. How did he do it?
“I just try to get 10 percent improvement,” he said. “When couples get that 10 percent improvement, they get hope. And when someone gets hope, anything is possible.”
I walked out of his house in the hills above Hollywood, telephoned my wife, and said, “I have just met the greatest single human being I will ever meet.” His name is Louis Zamperini. At age ninety-six, he is also one of the most energetic.
Over the course of my four-hour interview, it seemed that Louie’s life story could be described with three words: it gets worse.
When you have hope, eleven things are unleashed in your life
- You’re more successful
- You feel more satisfied
- You’re less affected by stress
- You have more satisfying relationships
- You’re physically healthier
- You’re more productive
- You’re more compassionate
- You’re more willing to help people in need
- You hold yourself to higher standards
- You’re more likely to assume leadership
- You’re more likely to see God as loving, caring and forgiving!
When spouses lose hope, they give up on their marriage. Parents give up on their teens. Leaders give up on their people. Healthy emotions like contentment and peace are replaced with the toxic emotions of confusion, shame, worry, and disappointment. In short, it’s impossible to be spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, or relationally healthy when we’re gripped by discouragement.
Howard Hendricks gave a gripping definition of discouragement: “Discouragement is the anesthetic the devil uses on a person just before he reaches in and carves out his heart.” He’s right. When people lose hope, they lose their ability to dream for the future. Despair replaces joy. Fear replaces faith. Anxiety replaces prayer. Insecurity replaces confidence. Tomorrow’s dreams are replaced by nightmares. It’s a lousy way to live.