When hope is gone

This is a time of year when many people are confronted with the fact that their dreams did not come true, their job still stinks, and life is no better than last year.  What do you do when hope seems to be fading?  But is it realistic to lose hope if the car breaks down or you lose your job?

A couple of years ago, Joanne and I had the pleasure of doing a 2-hour presentation at the Tennessee Prison for Women, right before Christmas.

woman's foot with prison ball

Prison of our own making

Joanne is a regular there – she loves the ladies and they love her.  I was just invited in to talk about finding work you love.  Now how could I present all the opportunities I normally outline when opportunities are obviously limited?  But guess what?  This was likely the most attentive and engaged audience I’d spoken to that year.  Rather than moaning about no opportunities, this crowd talked excitedly about being able to make wise decisions in choosing hairdressing, horticulture, commercial cleaning, medical sciences, or studying for further degrees.  They readily grasped the idea of looking at themselves first and then finding a proper match in work being selected.  And yes, about 75% of this group does have the prospect of being outside again at some time in the future.  But even then, under the powerful inspiration of Chaplain Walker, they refered to their “campus,” not their “prison.”

The responses here reminded me of the work of Viktor Frankl.  In 1943, Viktor, his wife and his parents were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp.  His only crime was that of being Jewish.  He survived the Holocaust, but his wife and both parents were murdered there.  It was due to his suffering that he came to the conclusion that even in the most inhumane and painful circumstances, life has potential meaning.  He later wrote this:

  • “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Man’s Search for Meaning

I was amazed to see the ‘attitude’ of the women at TPW.   It gave me a new perspective on how easily we can complain about our “circumstances.”  It also reminded me that often when fewer options are available, hope seems to be more present. 

Believing that all hope is gone is a personal choice.  Circumstances do not dictate that – only we can choose to believe that. 

Are you looking at circumstances and losing hope – or are you breaking out of the imagined prison you are in and making decisions that will transform your life in 2016?

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  • Dan, what a powerful post. It really is mind blowing to hear the response from the women’s prison – quite the opposite of what one would assume.
    Thank you!

    • Thanks Jen. Their worship and optimism is far superior to most people on the “outside.” Amazing.

  • Archie

    The only hope we don’t have, is the hope we have, but surrender at will. Great post Dan.

  • “Believing that all hope is gone is a personal choice. Circumstances do not dictate that – only we can choose to believe that. ” Wow Dan that says it all right there. You said often when fewer options are available, hope seems more present. It makes me think about people in some other countries who are persecuted and have fewer opportunities to practice their faith freely yet their faith is so much stronger. Wonderful post.

    • Ann – so true. Thanks for your comments.

  • Tim Bishop

    “Woe is me” is an all too common response today in our days of plenty. Thank you for the important reminder that there is always hope!

    • Tim,
      It seems ironic that often people who seemingly have the fewest options are in fact the most hopeful. Thanks for your comments.

  • Clark Gaither

    I see it everyday in my practice, people who feel they have no resources, no ability to overcome, and no opportunities when it is actually the exactly opposite. I am again reminded of my favorite quote by Anais Nin – “We don’t see things the way they are. We see things the way we are.” A change in mindset is all that is required to see things much differently and that, of course, is a choice. Powerful post Dan.

    • Clark – ah so true. We do indeed see thing the way WE are.

  • Jevonnah Ellison

    So powerful, Dan. Thank you for pouring into them. You and Joanne are such positive examples of a growth mindset and winning attitude. Thank you for your example.

    • Jevonnah – As you so well know, it’s always rewarding to help others see new possibilities.

  • Matt Weidman

    What a powerful post. Thank you Dan. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes – “Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react to it.” Thank you again for your wonderful ministry.

  • Brett Chaffins

    Awesome Post, Mindset really is crucial. I find myself struggling occasionally dealing with my normal work. Thankfully I am able to listen to 48 days podcast,Michael Hyatt, and other great podcast to enforce a more positive mental state. Stories such as this just help make it easier to look ahead and make a better future

  • Anja Skrba

    This is a great thing you and Joanne did, Dan! I admire you for this, truly!