Five Pursuits to Lead You Out of Chronic Hopelessness
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2011 12 Jan
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Deanna Favre & Shane Stanford's recent book, The Cure for the Chronic Life: Overcoming the Hopelessness that Holds You Back, (Abingdon Press, 2010).
Dealing with difficult situations that drag on and on - such as long seasons of illness or financial struggles - can leave you feeling chronically hopeless. You're surviving, but you're not thriving. You spend most of your time and energy enduring whatever tough circumstances life has thrown at you, which leaves you so depleted that you can't pursue God's purposes for your life.
God has a better life in mind for you: one that's filled with hope. Here's how you can overcome chronic hopelessness and start enjoying the life God wants you to live, even when your circumstances don't change:
Pursue compassion. You need to move out of your own way to find hope by inviting God to give you compassion for others that will broaden your perspective on life. Rather than being preoccupied with your own troubles, ask God to help you notice other people's troubles and to care about what they're going through. Pray for the ability to break free of distractions and pay attention to what matters most in life: loving God and others. Ask God to give you the faith and courage you need to follow where He leads you and to love people in need unconditionally so you can become a part of His redemptive work in their lives and help make the world a better place. Get to know the people who live near you and those who work with you. Ask them questions about their lives, and listen carefully. When they share specific needs with you, pray for them and help them in whatever practical ways God leads. Pray for God to help you see His reflection in the faces of the people you meet, and to offer compassion as an act of worship rather than just a duty.
Pursue understanding. Chronic hopelessness limits your thinking so that you can't accurately understand how to see yourself, God, and other people. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so you can think healthy thoughts that will lead to healthy attitudes and actions that change your life for the better. Read the Bible often, and study it and meditate on it as well. Keep a worship journal in which you record your encounters with God in worship and what you've learned about Him as a result. Pray daily for God to give you more wisdom to make the right decisions in life - decisions that will help you fulfill God's purposes for your life. Make sure that you're devoting your time and energy to activities that will truly help you fulfill those purposes. Every day, surrender your own agenda and follow God's guidance so you can do His will, which will bring fresh hope into your life.
Pursue response. When you respond to God's love, His hope floods your soul and flushes out the hopelessness that was there before. You go from being a spectator in the world who's concerned only about your own circumstances to one who engages in the world by actively responding to its needs and working to make it a better place. Invite God to use your life to change the world for the better in powerful ways. Pray for the wisdom you need to discern specific ways that God wants you to serve. Be bold about joining God in the work He leads you to undertake to serve others. Respond to God's love for you by letting His love flow through you to other people. Forgive people who have hurt or offended you and so what you can to reconcile with them. Express your appreciation to people who have helped you. Let people know how much you love them, through both words and actions.
Pursue encouragement. Encouragement casts out hopelessness from your life by giving you the ability to see the world as God sees it: one possibility at a time in each person's life. Let go of bitterness that can poison your soul by confessing your disappointments to God and trusting Him to help you move on despite the disappointments you've suffered in the past. Tell God often how much you love Him, and regularly open your heart to listen to Him and receive His encouragement. Contact people you know who are currently discouraged, and offer them some encouraging words to help motivate them to move forward with their lives as God leads them. Help speak up and carry burdens for those who are marginalized in society. Especially encourage those who are dealing with difficult situations that are similar to what you've gone through; use what you've learned in your own life to point others toward God and the hope that only He can provide.
Pursue wonders rather than worries. Ask God to help you take the worries that come from chronic hopelessness and give them to Him, trusting Him to help you develop healthy attitudes that correspond to those worries. Trade meaningless relationships for having genuine affection for other people. Trade the mental, relational, and emotional garbage that you've accumulated while feeling hopeless for the real meaning in life that God will give you. Trade misguided priorities that don't reflect true right and wrong for a sense of purpose from God. Trade the idols that you'd devoted yourself to when feeling hopeless - such as money, a romantic relationship, or your job - for a close relationship with God that empowers you to live with compassion and conviction that's directed in the right places. Trade vacillating between loneliness and self-sufficiency for loyal commitments that truly enrich your life. Trade the addictions that you couldn't control when feeling hopeless - such as drinking or gambling - for the ability to manage your energy in healthy ways. Trade the broken approaches to community that you took when you were feeling hopeless for the healthy relationships that come from living with a selfless perspective on God and other people.
Adapted from The Cure for the Chronic Life: Overcoming the Hopelessness that Holds You Back, copyright 2010 by Deanna Favre and Shane Stanford. Published by Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tn., www.abingdonpress.com.
Deanna Favre is an activist and the New York Times best-selling author of Don't Bet Against Me! She is also the wife of NFL legend Brett Favre. A breast cancer survivor, she is the president/CEO of the Favre 4 Hope Foundation, which supports disadvantaged and disabled children and under-insured or uninsured breast cancer patients.
Shane Stanford is the senior pastor of Gulf Breeze UMC, a 5,000-member church outside of Pensacola, Florida. He travels frequently to share his story and faith as an HIV-positive hemophiliac, and he also currently serves on the planning committee of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. Shane is the author of five books, including The Seven Next Words of Christ; The Eight Blessings; and You Can't Do Everything…So Do Something (all Abingdon Press); When God Disappears: Finding Hope When Your Circumstances Seem Impossible (Regal Books); and A Positive Life: Living with HIV as a Pastor, Husband, and Father (Zondervan). Shane is married to Dr. Pokey Stanford, an associate professor of education at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. They are the parents of three daughters.
Publication date: January 12, 2011