This essay is written for every reader who feels some hopelessness. We all share experiences where we feel “hopeless”–lost jobs, betrayals, etc. Yet we usually live through these hopeless events to regain new perspective and hope.
Hopelessness is an enduring condition. It penetrates deeply into our minds and inner beings. Hopelessness is something like being in a small boat in a violent and threatening storm, without power or rudder, covered over with dark swirling clouds, lightning and thunder. We feel completely alone, powerless, and at the whim of the storm. We know this is our condition, and we fear it is our destiny.
It is my belief many good people drift from feeling hopeless, yet still looking for the dawn, into captives of hopelessness. I surely have experienced hopelessness, which prompts me to write to you today. In my case, a separate series of events, each which seemed hopeless, gradually took a toll on my resilience, my inner strength and power to bounce back, scarred but moving forward again. Let us think about this dreaded condition of hopelessness.
Thoughts on Hopelessness
Many people have committed suicide because of single events where they felt hopeless. Think of the tragedy of some young teens, rejected by one he or she loved, killing themselves due to the emotional trauma of a single event. We live in times where single events have “piled on” and multiple events have transformed into daily hopelessness.
Hopelessness is a kind of mental and emotional hell. Yet perhaps we should call it a kind of mental and emotional aggressive, pervasive cancer. When you wake up, you already feel captive to bad forces at work in your life.
Conscious and unconscious, your mind is filled with “replays” of the past. Those replays are selective. We replay what impacted us most, good or bad, right or wrong, more accurate or less accurate. Yet when you live in hopelessness, the past is prelude to the present. We do not know what the day or night will bring. Yet there is a sense of dread, for you are living in a sea of hopelessness.
Your hopelessness can be invisible to others. You may have a great career, or not. You may have great friends, or not. Yet there are many whose inner mental and emotional life is drowning in hopelessness, but well hidden and never spoken. The door may be locked to communicating what is inside. Hopelessness itself has locked the door.
When you are in a state of hopelessness, the fragility of life and the presence of death are magnified. Daily news of tragedies reminds you of what others experience, the young and strong, the old and weak, the innocent and the vulnerable. Your own feeling of hopelessness is not comforted by the news of the Flow of Human Life. Some tragic news you hear whispers, “This is your future….”
Examples of Hopelessness Conquered
I want to tell you some true stories, experiences of others who could have lived in hopelessness yet did not. These are kept brief and to the facts.
Mabel – She had not been treated well by her family all her life. She had many betrayals. Her hands were misshapen by chronic arthritis. Yet Mabel had a mission of hope. She lived on Social Security, yet scrimped and saved for birthday cards and stamps. Everyone she knew received a card from her every year, year in and year out. “Happy Birthday, Love, Mabel Stone.” Her life was scarred. Her life was nearing its end. Yet she refused to allow the past to hold her captive. Mabel’s every simple card, she knew from responses, was a little gift of love, and each renewed hope in each recipient, “I am loved.”
Dick – Dick always was smiling and jovial. He carried peanuts in the shell to give children, just to see their joy in opening and eating them, or begging for them, like the squirrels in his back yard. Yet I had the privilege to become Dick’s friend. He was a U.S. Airborne Paratrooper whose unit had been dropped in the Normandy Invasion. Losses in his unit were horrible. He had fought for six days before the top of his skull was opened up with a machine gun bullet. Left for dead next to a rock wall, he woke up in London. Dick had horrible memories. He still grieved for many in his jump-school “graduation” picture. He would say, pointing, “This guy was a far better man than me, with a great family. He was killed on the first day. Why did I not die, instead of him?” Yet Survivor’s Guilt did not stop Dick from a gradually fuller and fuller life back in America, an an employee, as a mayor, and as a loyal and good, but sometimes troubled, husband and father. Dick did not ever understand why he survived that war, but he lived in hope that he would use his life well, in memory of his lost friends, and with the power he had left for goodness.
Judy – She lived in a mobile home and was poor as could be. Judy had a son who was a chronic alcoholic. His addiction caused her more financial difficulties, and much worry. Judy’s situation wore her down. She was not sad, but she was not happy or at peace. Judy told me, “I pray for my son every day. I give him over to the Lord. I know my prayers are heard, and I look forward to the day when he is better.” This went on for many years. Judy was not in control of her financial situation, nor her son’s self-harm. Yet she had a real, living faith in God. She did what she could. She lived a good life. She prayed daily, remembering a scripture promise, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” (Second Letter to the Corinthians 5:7) Judy had her limitations, but she trusted in One without limitations, and lived and died in peace, and her son was left in the care of God.
These stories were chosen because they are not overly-dramatic. I have many true stories that are heart-rending. I wanted to note average people who might have lived in hopelessness due to real but unremarkable life conditions. I let you think about these people, in relationship to you.
Seedbed of Hopelessness:
A Nursing Care Facility
Do you ever think about your future, and imagine yourself incapable of speaking or moving after a stroke, or you, in an aged and declining body, with so many medical conditions, too weak to argue successfully for what you want, or mentally unable to do so, having lost your legal rights to direct what is happening to you? And what if those who hold your power of attorney really do not love you, and are silently waiting for you to die, so they can sell all your assets for their own use?
This question portrays end of life conditions that easily generate hopelessness. For residents with minds enough to realize the facts, many succumb to hopelessness and become numb, sitting mute and waiting for the pills or small cups of liquid that will put them to sleep.
Still I know some residents with good minds, who know all. Some are gracious, truly sweet, and still positive. They thank humbly the personnel who awaken, wash their soiled bodies, dress, take them to breakfast, then change them throughout the day. They soak up every visit with anyone else, offering respectful kindly conversation. Hopelessness? They transcend it with Living Life.
Hopelessness the Slayer and Liar
Jesus Christ once said of Satan, “He was a murderer from the beginning. The truth is not in him. He is a liar and the Father of Lies.” (John 8:44) I quote this because I think hopelessness is satanically evil in what it does to us.
It murders our will to live. It blinds us of the capacity to see life. It deafens us to the sounds of laughter. It drugs us to slumber in despair.
It is completely a lie. Suffering is real, events are real. Yet the truth is, We are alive today. We have every waking hour to do at least one good thing. It lies to us in making us falsely think we are powerless. We have real power. We can speak. We can touch. We can identify someone who needs help. We can decide to transcend what is killing us in the mind and spirit.
Slay Hopelessness (Hopeless as You Do It!)
You are not a small boat, rudderless, powerless, at the mercy of forces beyond your control. This is a lying delusion. You have power. You can have direction, by your own choice. Let the storms continue–real or in the mind–but put your life, your mind’s creativity, your eyes to see and hear opportunities to ESCAPE what is within you.
I myself have experienced hopelessness. It cost me years of lost time and life. Yet several years ago, I saw an opportunity to do one small good thing each week, in volunteering. The commitment, my moral sense of duty to keep the appointment, began the process of ESCAPE.
Something unexpected began to happen. I gave my best in the hour I served. I saw and talked with people. I had nothing really in common with them, except our common human experience of Need and Sharing. Yet every week, as I did my best, I received at least one good gift of thanks.
I would leave and returned to my hopelessness. Yet I had the one memory. Sometimes I had more than one, things that meant something to me. Yet something gradually began to happen. At first, for a considerably long time, the change was not something I could identify, so deep and pervasive my hopelessness was.
But a day came when I began to look at my calendar at that weekly hour, and I experienced joyful hope. I was eager to go, eager to give, eager to gather up “my one gift” which only came during that hour. It was at that moment this highly educated, highly complex, highly reflective man realized: “I am healing. I really am healing. I am glad to be alive. I am so glad to have the privilege of this one hour.”
Sometimes I grieve, because I lost many years due to hopelessness. Yet I stop the grief as a waste of my time. That grief is another seed-lie. Believe it or not, this year is 2015, and I regularly say, “I am happier now than in decades. How glad I am to have today, and to make it count, for someone, for good, whatever it costs to make it happen.”
My Prayer for You
May God help you, if you are experiencing hopelessness, to rebuke and reject the lie that “I am beyond hope, and this hell I call life is my destiny.” Perhaps God sent this message to you.
Last week I helped a friend pour concrete for a pool. The driver of the truck was an overweight, somewhat ill-kept woman missing some teeth. In the two hours she was with us, she did not sit in the truck. She got out, guided us, encouraged us, as if we were her own family.
I said to her, “Rebecca, you are special. I want the CEO’s name of your company. I want to write what I see in you. You are so positive, so generous, so good at what you do. I want the CEO to know, from another CEO, how fortunate the company is to have you.” She nearly was speechless. What I will write will go into her personnel file, with a copy to her.
Yes, you are suffering, and you may feel hopelessness. Someone today needs to have you see him or her, and to give loving encouragement. Do this, and begin–though you may be so hopeless you will not believe it–to Slay the Slayer, and Mute the Liar, stealing away the power you have, to transcend your inner feelings. JDW