He was born without arms and legs. The attending physician advised his parents to just let him die. He would never survive. However, his mother and father held on to hope and raised him in a loving, supportive home, encouraging him to live life to the fullest. Today, Nick Vujicic is an evangelist and motivational speaker, founder of a non-profit organization called “Life Without Limbs,” and a husband and father.
They were a young married couple, in love with Jesus and in love with each other. They had twin daughters and a son. Tragedy struck their household and one of their girls suffered and died from leukemia. The loss was devastating. However, they held on to hope and walked through the long process of healing. Today, Jorge and Maggie Najera have eight beautiful children, five biological and three adopted, and open their home to others in need. They are on the leadership team of a church in a small community in Washington State.
Both of these inspiring, true stories have something in common–hope. Hope in the face of crisis. Hope in the face of disappointment. Hope in the face of the seemingly impossible. But hope doesn’t just happen. Hope must be developed as a habit. Nick Vujicic and the Najeras have cultivated this habit of hope.
As leaders, the habit of hope is one of our most valuable assets. Indeed, it is our responsibility to keep hope alive. I’m not talking about wishful thinking, but rather a desire for positive outcomes and a belief that things will get better. It is hope based on the promises of God and His faithfulness to fulfill them. When our churches and businesses encounter set backs or do not meet goals, it’s time for hope. When our organizations face unexpected obstacles, it’s time for hope. Our colleagues and followers need to hear from us that everything is going to be fine. We must give them a strong dose of hope.
Truth be told, I am a natural-born pessimist. Not only that, years of yielding to skepticism and fear make it extremely easy for me to create multiple, detailed, devastating outcomes in my mind from one less-than-ideal situation. Thanks be to God, I am in the process of re-training myself in order to develop the habit of hope!
Here are the steps I use to engage my brain in cultivating the habit of hope.
Look at where you have been. The Bible contains many references to remembering God’s miracles and the good things He had done in the past. “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders” (Psalm 9:1 NIV). “Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare” (Psalm 40:4-6 NIV). Reflecting upon God and how He has shown Himself strong and loving to you in the past puts the current situation in perspective.
Give thanks for what you have. Ingratitude quickly gives birth to hopelessness. Thanksgiving brings hope to life and nourishes it. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV, emphasis mine). As the old hymn instructs, “Count your blessings; name them one by one.” Things may not be going according to plan, but you can choose to dwell on the things that are going well and give thanks.
Consider the future WITH God. Jeremiah 29:11 declares that God’s plans give us hope and a future. The Bible is filled with accounts of men and women with their backs against the wall–Moses, the Old Testament judges, David, Daniel, Esther, and our Lord Jesus Christ (to name a few). When it seemed impossible, God’s plan of deliverance unfolded right before their eyes. God’s creative and powerful intervention continues today. There is always hope for the Christian, because, as John Ortberg states, “The King still has one more move.”
May the great examples of faith spur us on with inspiration. Let us commit to developing this habit of hope.
John Ortberg, When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007).