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Accepting Disappointment and Remaining Hopeful

Accepting Disappointment and Remaining Hopeful

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Choose Lockdown

From a psychological perspective, and according to research by Dr. Rick Snyder (1944–2006), a professor of clinical psychology who studied hope for thirty-four years at the University of Kansas,1 hopeful thinkers achieve more and are more successful. They are physically and psychologically healthier than less hopeful people. Snyder’s hope theory, according to one summary, “defines hope as a dynamic motivational experience that is interactively derived from two distinct types of cognitive tools in the context of goal achievement — namely, pathways and agency thinking. His theory proposes that hope results from an individual’s perceived ability to develop numerous and flexible pathways toward their goals, allowing them to identify barriers and strategies to overcome these as they move toward goal achievement.”2

For example, if we were to apply Snyder’s hope theory to our lives, it would be a three-step process that looks like this:

Step 1: Encourage Goal-Oriented Thinking

Goals can be long-term or short-term. Be intentional and set your goals. What goals do you need to achieve to answer your calling? What dreams are you wanting to make a reality?

Step 2: Find Pathways to Achievement

A pathway is a workable route to your goals. If a setback occurs, be creative, and find another pathway. It’s not going to be easy, but identifying the barriers, complications, or risks will allow you to problem-solve and create a plan.

Step 3: Instigate Change

Take time to develop good habits that will allow you to keep moving forward and in the direction of achieving your goals. Be flexible and willing to create new path- ways. Be open to change and allow it to fuel your motivation.

Snyder says hope is the state of mind that helps you navigate life's twists and turns, and keeps you moving forward when times are tough. What's more, as we shall see, hope isn't simply a happy feeling — it's a human survival mechanism that fuels your desire to keep pushing on and growing.3

To me, from my own experiences and walk of faith with God,

hope is unshakeable confidence in God.4

It doesn’t deny the reality of our pain, but it does give us a life beyond our pain. It gives us permission to believe in a new beginning. It gives us permission to dream again. It is the happy and confident expectation of good that lifts our spirits and dares us to believe in a different future — in a different dream. It is always looking to God with expectation: “Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.”5

But when we lose hope, when all we feel is the pain of loss and disappointment, it can be so hard to believe that God wants to help us or that He cares, because we have more questions than answers. More doubt than faith. And yet, that is the perfect time to become a prisoner of hope.

A prisoner of hope sounds like an odd thing to be, doesn’t it? Aren’t prisoners locked up in high-security institutions and stripped of all their freedoms? Why would we want to be characterized as a prisoner of anything, even hope?

Because being a prisoner of hope in God is different.

  • God’s prisoners of hope aren’t forced into an institution for punishment but invited into a fortress for safety.

Imagine a castle that stands firm even when the very foundations of life are shaken. A place created just for us, where we can chain ourselves to the promise that God is working all things for our good, even when all things are falling apart. From the high tower of this fortress, we prisoners of hope gain a whole new perspective. We can look beyond our unexpected circumstances to the future, trusting that God has good things in store for us.

When I first learned to think and live this way, it was revolutionary to me. I was raised in a religious tradition that never encouraged me to expect good things from God. In fact, it was considered presumptuous to even imagine that God had time for my requests, given that He had an entire world to run. I’m so glad I discovered in His Word that God is good, God does good, and God wants to do good for me — all the time. But to keep my heart and mind thinking and believing this way on a daily basis doesn’t come naturally; instead, it’s always a choice, one I have to make again and again.

Here’s another way to think about this choice. When the unexpected strikes, we find ourselves perched on a thin precipice with an abyss on either side. That’s when we have a decision to make. We can choose to fall into the abyss of despair on one side or into the abyss of hope on the other. Both look like scary choices, but when we choose to fall into hope, we soon find ourselves wrapped in the arms of a loving God — a God who always catches us and always promises to carry us from the precipice of despair into the wide-open space of new life. That’s where we find the new opportunities and experiences that get us beyond our disappointments and disillusionments. It is a place of freedom where we let go of what we once wanted in exchange for what we never expected — a new adventure. But we can’t get there by ourselves.

Only God can catch and carry us into the new life we never imagined and take us to places we never considered going.

Becoming a prisoner of hope doesn’t mean we no longer struggle with disillusionment or despair. When the unexpected strikes and gives us new reasons to lose hope, it’s still tempting to dig a tunnel out of our fortress, to escape hope and lose ourselves in doubt, fear, and unbelief. I cannot tell you how many times I almost lost hope that we would see people rescued at A21, or that traffickers would be caught and prosecuted and sentenced. That Propel Women would resonate with women. That I had another book in me. There were times I wondered if I would have the ability to parent my girls with wisdom. Or if I would get free from the pain of my past. The list is endless.

In each and every endeavor, I had to chain myself once more to the God of all hope. As we launched our initiatives, people left who had said they would stay. People who were supportive at one stage dropped out in the next. Doors slammed shut. Governments changed policies. But I have learned to walk by faith and not by sight.6 To close my eyes, proclaim myself a prisoner of hope, and step into a spiritual fortress — to dare to get my hopes up and keep my hopes up. I’ve seen God step in and carry me to better places, present me with better opportunities, and lead me into amazing breakthroughs.

When we are tempted to escape but choose instead to run to our stronghold, Jesus, He promises to overflow our lives with hope:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.7

He promises to help us become the prisoners of hope He’s called us to be so we can move beyond despair into a new destiny.

But first, we have to willingly turn ourselves in at the fortress gate and stay there.

I’ve had many unexpected things happen in my life — things that were never in my plan. But there is no telling what hope we can bring into our homes, workplaces, and communities if we’ll choose to be people of hope — who use words of hope — in a world where people desperately need it.

If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, wrote the apostle Paul, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you.8

That’s a promise of hope that will not fail.

  1. Shane J. Lopez and C.R. Snyder, eds. “Memoriam: Remembering C.R. Snyder: A Humble Legacy of Hope,” The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, 2nd (2009; online ed., Oxford Academic, September 18, 2012), https://academic. chapter/212928489, accessed August 8, 2023.
  2. Rachel Colla et al., “’A New Hope’ for Positive Psychology: A Dynamic Systems Reconceptualization of Hope Theory,” Frontiers in Psychology 13:809053 (2022), doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.809053.
  3. Mind Tools Content Team, “Snyder’s Hope Theory,” Mind Tools, aov3izj/snyders-hope-theory.
  4. Hebrews 10:35.
  5. Psalm 39:7.
  6. 2 Corinthians 5:7.
  7. Romans 15:13.
  8. Romans 8:11.

Excerpted with permission from Permission to Dream by Christine Caine, copyright Caso Writing, LLC.

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Your Turn

Have you chained yourself to the God of all hope? Do you feel that unshakeable confidence in Him? No matter what your situation is today, reach out and grasp onto God with all you’ve got! He’s promised to overflow our lives with hope! ~ Devotionals Daily