How Do I Help Myself or Others Find Hope?

I do not believe you can actually “give” someone else hope, but you can help them find hope. There must be some level of hope in them and you are helping restore it. If you personally are running low on hope, consider the following ideas.

This is written in hopes that I may learn the answer myself. You may remember in the post on Hope, Kay’s brother took his own life. We did not know he had lost hope but if we had known then how could we have helped Brian? That has haunted me for twenty years.

I also need the answer for volunteer work in which I’m involved. Court Appointed Special Advocate, CASA, works with children who have been placed in State custody because of abuse or abandonment. Most of these children are placed with foster parents and sometimes with relatives. Some of the older children are placed in State custody because they broke the law. These children are often placed in private institutions with lock down facilities. The State has an advocate, an attorney, and the parents sometimes have an attorney who is an advocate for them. Many juvinile court systems, including Tennessee, believe the child should also have an advocate, CASA.

If relatives are an option for the children, then we find out from the child their preference and why. If a foster home is the best option, then we monitor the child in that home. Discussions with the child are about how things are going wherever they are placed, proper behavior, doing their best in school, etc. We also assure they receive social services that are needed such as counseling.

Many times, one or both parents have a drug problem, alcohol dependency and have been in jail or prison. These children have watched mom’s and dad’s life style, so sometimes they tend to walk in their footprints. CASA volunteers are not mentors but at times act in that capacity. In one hundred percent of the cases, the children need HOPE for a brighter future. Very few have a relationship with God or have had any spiritual guidance. When asked if they believe in God the typical answer is “Yea, I guess so!” Although most CASA volunteers if not all of us are believers, we are not to be evangelists. It’s acceptable to let the children know we pray for them, but not to carry it further. I tell my children at every meeting that I’m praying for them and ask if they have any request. They just stare at me. God has very little meaning for them. I’m struggling with helping these children find hope.

One case is very difficult for me. When I first met JD, he was 17 and one of three brothers I was trying to help. He was housed in a lock down facility about one hundred miles from Bedford County. He came into the first meeting in shackles because he had run away so many times. JD was about to be released to foster parents who also housed his brothers. Six months later he ran away. He wound up in Rutherford County in a drug deal gone bad. One man was killed and another one wounded. JD was arrested in January of 2018 with charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and three other felony charges. He’s now been bound over to adult court. JD is claiming self-defense, but it seems no one is buying it including is former attorney. The district attorney is not seeking the death penalty, but his attorney informed me that he believes JD is “looking at many decades in prison”. The visitation at the jail is at a kiosk through a computer screen and the typical phone receiver. Written communication is limited to a page or two and copied to a computer screen for him to read. Any contact is very impersonal. His parents either can’t visit him because of their own prior convictions or choose not to visit. JD has some emotional issues. He’s attempted suicide twice that I’m aware of and has had to fight off inmates on two different occasions that wanted have sex with him.

You may be asking why I’m trying to help a murderer find hope and that’s not an unfair question. Years ago, there would not have been any effort on my part. I believe JD must deal with the legal system and take his punishment! He’s still a child of God and deserves an opportunity to have hope for the future days in prison and hope of salvation. He tells me he’s attending a Bible class every Monday, so I hope he’s finding direction there. Matthew 25:31-46 lays out Jesus’s return to earth and judging our works. One of the works listed in verse 36 is “visiting those in prison”. Some people believe that it only refers to visiting Christians imprisoned because they are Christians. I cannot reconcile that it refers to only Christians.

How do I help a 19-year-old possibly facing 50 years in prison or the child uncertain where his or her future with their parents find hope for daily life? The following are thoughts are from Christian writers.

From the ministerial point of view, Rick Warren believes that being in a small group of Christians is vital to helping others find hope. The prayers of a small group can achieve success with the following characteristics:

  • Compassion from others who are not too preoccupied with their own problems.
  • Faith- In Luke 5:20 a paralytic man’s friends took him up on the roof and let him down so Jesus could heal him. It was the faith of the friends that helped heal him.
  • Willingness to intervene otherwise nothing may take place.
  • Persistence to not give-up
  • Innovative in a willingness to try different methods
  • Cooperation with those who are helping
  • Sacrificing one’s time, money or whatever to make the process work.

It seems this method can be helpful but the person struggling must be a willing active participant by allowing people into their lives. Some people will be willing to share with another individual but not in a group setting.

Dr. Larry Crabb and Dr. Dan B. Allender (I’ll refer to them as the Doctors) are Christians with PhD’s in Psychology. Their book, Hope When You’re Hurting, looks at psychological, medical and spiritual methods of addressing help. The docs say that when we struggle with life, we ask four basic questions:

  • What’s wrong?
  • Who can help?
  • What will the helper do?
  • What can I hope for if I do seek help?

“When we hurt, we ask these questions. And we insist that someone be able to answer them. How we answer those four questions determines what we do and where we go to find help when we hurt.”

The Doctors believe that, “We’re not nearly so bothered by the size of the problem as we are by it’s degree of mystery. It’s not knowing what’s wrong that arouses the worst terror. Mystery scares us because it puts us out of control and leaves us with an option we don’t naturally like---- to trust someone besides ourselves.”

The Doctors suggest six different explanations to what’s wrong:

  • Spiritual warfare – The cause is demonic
  • Dysfunctional background - The cause is psychological
  • Personal sin – The cause is moral
  • Biomedical disorder – The cause is medical
  • Undisciplined living - The cause is weakness
  • Deficient spirituality – The cause is distance from God

The book goes in deep detail about each of these causes. Some of their analysis is too deep for me and there is not enough room to write about it all. If you would like to borrow the book, let me know.

The doctors suggest four resources that may be useful:

  • The individual – Responsibility for change falls largely on the individual’s shoulders
  • Natural community – Support from family, friends, and ministers/elders might help
  • God – The individual must tap into God’s sufficient power. He is all the individual needs.
  • Professional help – Trained professionals may be necessary

They remind us that the way the individual answers the first question determines who we depend on for help.

As I researched helping people find hope, I was though there would be a much simpler answer. The following is what I took away from talks with others and reading.

A Christian man who is involved in prison ministry fulltime encouraged me to let JD know that I’m praying for him. He also believes the more people that write him the more encouraged he will be and hope can grow. An ex-inmate who attends Riverdale Church of Christ in Murfreesboro meets with inmates on a regular basis. Larry advises that JD must take it on his own shoulders for keeping hope. Praying for him and contact with him will help.

With the limited contact CASA volunteers have with the children, letting them know you are praying for them and offering encouragement seem to be the best course of action. Helping them make plans for a brighter future creates hope. They need to know someone cares about them! The power of prayer is not in the person praying but the power is in the one listening, God.

The Bedford County CASA received eight new appointments for families last month but I’m not sure how many children that includes. There aren’t enough volunteers! If you think you might have an interest in helping children through CASA, let me know. You do not have to be professionally trained, just have a heart for children. CASA staff will give you all the training initially and then hands on experience and God’s guidance will take over.

God Bless!

Mike

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HOPE

HOPE

Webster defines hope: Desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment, to expect with confidence. We often use hope as a wish as oppose to an expectation. “I hope everything comes out alright”.

The word for hope in Hebrew in the Old Testament is closely associated with trust. The Greek word in the New Testament is also associated with trust along with eager expectation.

In Max Lucado’s book: God Came Near, he describes hope as: “Hope is not what you expect, it is what you would never dream. Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It’s a dependence on God who loves you.”

In his book, Hope Again, Charles Swindoll writes: “Hope isn’t merely a nice option that helps us temporarily clear a hurdle. It’s essential to our survival. Hope is a wonderful gift from God, a source of strength and courage in the face of life’s harshest trials. Put simply, when life hurts and dreams fade, nothing helps like hope. Hope plays a vital role in life.”

Mr. Swindoll continues with examples of trials where hope provides strength and courage:

  • When we are trapped in a tunnel of misery, hope points to the light at the end.
  • When we are discouraged, hope lifts our spirits
  • When we struggle with a crippling disease or a lingering illness, hope helps us persevere beyond the pain.
  • When we fear the worst, hope brings reminders that God is still in control.
  • When we must endure the consequences of bad decisions, hope fuels our recovery.
  • When we feel rejected and abandoned, hope reminds us we are not alone…we will make it.
  • When we say our final farewell to someone we love, hope in the life beyond gets us through our grief.

As I thought about his points, the words belief, relationship, trust, and faith kept coming into my mind. In order to have hope, we must believe in God, have a close relationship with him and place total trust and faith in him. But what is the source of hope for people who do not believe in God or have no relationship with him? Their hope is in themselves, other people, natural circumstances in the world, money, other possessions, and technologies like medicine. These play a part in hope but without God behind them, they are without certainty. We experience our own failures, people that we place hope in disappoint us, money and possessions are very uncertain, medicine sometimes fails us. Think about these verses and think about where your hope lies.

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you …...to give you hope and a future

Psalm 42:5 - … Put your hope in God

Psalm 62:5 - …. My hope comes from him

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart…

Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope…

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope….

I Timothy 6:17 - …. not to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain but to put their hope in God

Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is being sure of what we hope form and certain of what we do not see.

God and Christ will always endure as our hope!

We all have hopes for a good life, a wonderful marriage, children and hopes for them, and for successful careers and so on, all earthly hopes. What about eternal hopes? Mr. Swindoll asks: “How can we concern ourselves that much over what happens on this temporary planet when we know that it is all leading us to our eternal destination?” The Bible has several verses that give hope for heaven.

I Ephesians 1:18 - … you may know the hope which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance …

Colossians 1:27 - ……which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Titus 2:13 - … While we wait for the blessed hope---the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ ….

Hebrews 6:19 - … We have this hope as an anchor for the soul….

I Peter:3-5 - … he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

I Peter 3:15 - … …Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone that asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Our lives hold hope for things both on earth and in heaven. What if my hope dims or I lose all hope? We all probably know people who have lost hope. Kay’s youngest brother, Brian, did. From an early age he struggled with what we now believe was bipolar. Brian tended to hear a different drummer. In his early twenties he rode a motorcycle from southern California to Memphis in the dead of winter. He was struggling with his way of life and what he thought Christianity demanded of him, so he was not around the family very much. Later, we found out he was an alcoholic, but when he graduated from the AA program things were looking up. He started working for a casino outside Memphis and soon became a highly respected backroom poker dealer for the rich customers. In the fall of 1998, Brian lost hope and took his own life. As we went through his personal things, we found liquor bottles stashed all over the house and learned from his girlfriend that he had a total relapse. She also informed us that he had a serious gambling problem. Brian could not reconcile his Christian up bringing with his failures and the expectation of others, so he lost hope of living the Christian life.

George Weinberg, psychologist, writes: “Hope never abandons you, you abandon it!”

Mr. Swindoll writes: “Two words will help you when you run low on hope: accept and trust. Accept the mystery of hardship, suffering, misfortune, or mistreatment. Don’t try to understand it or explain it. Accept it. Then, deliberately trust God to protect you by his power from this very moment to the drawing of eternity.”

What actions should I peruse if I or someone I know are struggling with hope?

  • Double down on your prayer life.
  • Pray with trust and expectation that God will recue you.
  • Get a prayer partner who will pray with you and for you with the same trust and expectation.
  • Pray with the elders, James 5:16 tells us the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
  • The first answer therapist and counselors give is to seek professional help. That’s good but do not leave out the first four. Choose a Christian counselor!

The premise of God Came Near is that Jesus is always in our lives especially at our greatest times of need, if we look for him. To paraphrase: Jesus does his best work at moments when we face trials. “Just when the truth about life sinks in, his truth starts to surface. He takes us by the hand and dares us not to sweep the facts under the rug but to confront them with him at our side.”

“Funerals, divorces, illnesses, and stays in the hospital-----you can’t lie about life at such times. Maybe that’s why he’s always present at such moments.”

“The next time you find yourself alone in a dark alley facing the undeniables of life, don’t cover them with a blanket, or ignore them with a nervous grin. Don’t turn up, the TV and pretend they aren’t there. Instead, stand still, whisper his name, and listen. He is nearer than you think.”    

Jesus is near so that’s HOPE!

Thanks!

Mike

Next: How can I help someone find hope?

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Focus on God

My computer would not open last Tuesday so I took it to the Geek Squad at Best Buy. To keep it short, by Saturday the hard driven and flash drive were gone, and everything was lost including all my writings and outlines for the blog. The hard drive was sent off to retrieve what they can. Hopefully, I’ll have it all back in 2-3 weeks so I’m putting together some thoughts to post.

There are many people listed in the bulletin and in the announcements that are experiencing storms of one kind or another in their lives. There are others going through trying times that we do not know about. Extreme illness, death of a loved one, family problems, financial problems, etc. seem to always be with us. We have all been there in our lives. The following is from New CREEations Ministries:

You can be in peace in the middle of whatever storm life throws at you. The key is to keep your focus on God, because he truly is bigger than any storm. Peter was able to walk on the waves in the midst of the storm as long as he focused on Jesus. But when his focus shifted onto the raging sea he began to sink. Make God the center of your attention. Keep your focus on Him. Then you will pass through any storm in perfect peace.

I believe these words but putting them into practice is not always easy for me. Some of the difficulty speaks to my problem of accepting God’s decisions, my faith. This is attributable to satan attacking where he knows I’m weakest. Already troubled, concerned and even worried about the outcome of the storm, satan works at creating doubt by asking why God would let this happen and why he’s not changing it like my request in prayers.

The key is “pass through the storm”. We are not promised that everything will be changed to our satisfaction even though we diligently pray about the storm. The following verses speak to the fact that “God has got our backs”:

I Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:10 - …. after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious …. And the peace of God…. will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 41:13 – For I am the Lord your God…. Do not fear; I will help you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – I will never leave you or forsake you.

For me, it comes down to sronger faith. I must trust God’s decisions even though the outcome is not what I prayed for.

How do you cope? Let me know.

Let me know if you need prayers. You’ll be in my prayers every morning. It will be private!

Mike

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Relationship with God

 Early in my career a boss gave me his philosophy of keeping a good relationship with his boss: “Whatever my boss thinks is important, I think is important. “ He practiced that faithfully and of course, he was giving me advice as to how to manage a good relationship with him. Another one of his philosophies was: “If your attitude is good, I can forgive mistakes.” I worked hard making sure that I understood what Bill thought was important and maintaining the right attitude.

I thought a lot about these philosophies in terms of my relationship with God. Generally, your boss has control over your future within that company, so you strive to make him/her happy with your performance. It plays a very important part in pay increases, promotions, benefits, etc. So, I worked to keep the boss happy, BUT did I give the same consideration and effort to my relationship with God? He created me, provides blessings, forgives my sins and decides where I will spend eternity which is far more important! Now that I’m older*, I’m pretty sure God did not get the same effort that Bill did. I went to church and went through the motions of being a Christian, looked the part, but did not give whole heart.

Conversations with folks I’ve known:

Q: How’s your relationship with God?

A: Yes, I believe in God.

Q: That’s great but how’s your relationship?

A: Everything is OK, I guess!

Q: Do you pray, read your Bible, go to church and serve Him to grow your relationship?

A: Well, no but I don’t believe you need all that to keep a good relationship with Him. Afterall, He loves me the way I am.

Q: How’s your relationship with God?

A: To be honest it’s not as good as it once was!

Q: You must have moved away because God didn’t move away from you. What happened?

A: Well, I had the following happen________________. I feel like God let me down!

The blank can be filled in with most any struggle in life we are experiencing now or have experienced. All of us have had our struggles, but we should not use those struggles as the excuse for the lack of our relationship with God.

For any relationship to thrive, attention must be paid to it. Typical answer is: “Yes, but we both are trying to move ahead in our careers, we have two kids and they are involved in school, sports and scouts, etc. I’m also involved with Rotary, Lions club (take your choice) and I’m serving people through them. GOD UNDERSTANDS!”

There is absolutely nothing God does not understand but he is a jealous God and expects to be our number one priority. Let’s see, God came in after careers, kids, school, sports, scouts and a civic club at best! He’s probably disappointed with the relationship!

Max Lucado is the author of On The Anvil. He describes the book as thoughts on being shaped into God’s image. He believes that our relationship with God is like a tool’s relationship with the blacksmith. There are several verses in Bible that refer to us as instruments/tools. Acts 9:15, John 15:16 and Romans 6:15. The best one for me is II Timothy 2:21 “… an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to do any good work”

Max writes: “We are all somewhere in the blacksmith’s shop. We are either on the scrap pile, on the anvil, in the Master’s hands or in the tool chest. (Some of us have been in all three.)”

“Anvil time reminds us of who we are and who God is. We should not try to escape it. God sees our life from beginning to end. He may lead us through a storm at thirty so we can endure a hurricane at age sixty. An instrument is useful only if it’s in the right shape. A dull ax or a bent screwdriver needs attention, and so do we. A good blacksmith keeps his tools in shape. So does God. Should God place you on his anvil, be thankful. It means he thinks you’re still worth reshaping.”

How do I know if I’m on the anvil? Read I Peter 1:6-7

I’m paraphrasing here: Time on God’s anvil clarifies and defines God’s evaluation of our relationship with Him. If you feel you are on the anvil, step back and take time to consider why you are there. I believe that much of our relationship with God is about carrying out His business.

*I do not use the term “elderly” to describe myself. Elderly is for those older than me!?!?

When I led Sunday School classes, its success depended on discussion from the class members. I would like for the blog to be as interactive as possible so please share your ideas and comments @ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Need prayers for yourself or someone else, let me know. Know anyone that needs a short visit to be encouraged let me know.

Thanks

Mike

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