A group of friends discussed their failed relationships.

“What’s his problem?”
“He won’t take life seriously.”
“Where’d you meet him?”
“Comedy club.”

“What’s his problem?”
“He spends every Friday and Saturday night at the bar.”
“Where’d you meet him?”
“At…a…bar.”

“What’s his problem?”
“All he ever thinks about is football.”
“And you met him…?”
“…at a football game.”

A mother probably said it first. A singer made it public. He viewed scenes like the above and produced a popular song called, “Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places.”

It seems obvious that if you want true love, you look in true places. If you want a man who is faithful, find where the faithful men congregate. If you want a man with a servant heart, get involved in serving others and see who joins you.

When life falls apart—temporarily or long-term—do we catch ourselves looking for hope in all the wrong places? Someone’s misguided decision leaves us crumpled, crushed, rocked to the core. Our own bad choices buckle us. Life whacks us behind the knees with a baseball bat and leaves us there on the field. Or so it seems.

It’s as if hope ran scared, scooted out of the picture, left the stage. Did it?

What do the hopeful do? Where do we find hope when it seems as if hope’s playing hide-and-seek and we’re always “It”?

We know what doesn’t work, where not to look.

Letting our pain define us and mold us into something uglier than our circumstances. Hope loves light. When we pull the curtains of our lives or label ourselves The Broken One, The Too-Young Widow, The Motherless, The Addict, The Jilted, we’re making it harder to find the hope our souls crave.

Taking it out on others. Can you name a person who grew more hopeful, more radiant, by taking out their pain on others? Me neither.

Allowing bitterness and disappointment to dictate what life is going to look like. Surrendering to the distress drains our energies for survival and dictates a hopeless future. Surrendering to God guarantees a hope-filled future, no matter what the specific details or how difficult the climb remains.

Reaching for destructive influences or people. Any hope promised by a bottle, a pill, or an unwise relationship is a false hope that inevitably shows its hollow core and dangerous repercussions.

Getting stuck in figuring out who’s to blame. When searching for hope, which is more productive—asking whose fault this is or asking where do I go from here?

Getting mired in regret. The back eddy of regret has aborted many good intentions. Untended, stagnant regret and hope can’t occupy the same territory. One will push the other out.

Letting our own disappointment or pain become someone else’s fallout, someone else’s problem or hurdle. Have you seen the fallout in the eyes of the children of angry parents? Have you worked with people whose coarse nature or foul mouth is a result of cruelty from their past now manifesting itself in their current relationships?

Pulling away from God—the only One with the power to affect change in our circumstances or in us. The hope expert, the One who created it and maintains it for us at His own cost, remains our only source of lasting, genuine, tenacious, durable hope.

Hope doesn’t hang out where bitterness, regret, blame-fixing, and lashing out are present. It hates the atmosphere.

We won’t find hope by looking in hopeless places. We won’t find it tucked behind the corner of an equally wrong decision or an attempt at revenge.