Of all the attitudes we need to possess as youth workers, maybe the one we need most is hope.

Hope means “to expect with confidence, to trust, to rely.” This neither means to hope in people, because people will let us down, nor in dreams, because some will not happen. However, biblical hope is putting confidence in God who is in control of all things. Hebrews 6:19 is one of my favorite verses: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Like a boat anchor, hope centers us and keeps us from capsizing.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy” (Proverbs 13:12). What happens when hope is deferred? Hope delayed can lead to jealousy (Proverbs 27:4), anxiety (Proverbs 11:25), grief (Proverbs 14:13) and bitterness. Proverbs 14:10 says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Bitterness is a subtle enemy that creeps into our lives when hope seems gone.

Maybe you are discouraged about ministry, your marriage is struggling or your child is rebelling. Perhaps you are mad at life, frustrated with a staff member, irritated with parents or ticked off at God. There is little joy; the passion is gone; there is no positive perspective. Hope is delayed. Youth ministry is not immune to discouragement and loss of hope.

Biblical hope means that we cling to God. Ask God to turn your mourning into dancing. Ask Jesus to restore your joy. Ask for perseverance while hope is deferred. 

How do we gain H.O.P.E?

H—Holy Spirit
Joni Eareckson Tada knows the pain of living most of her life in a wheelchair. She wrote, “Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching. The Holy Spirit is near.” None of us can pull off this attitude of hope without saying, “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Bring me hope; help me trust You.”

What is God up to when we are disappointed and broken, when we feel like throwing in the towel?  Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire said, “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins.” Be open to God about your hopes and dreams.

The hardest thing is when we have hopes that don’t materialize. Maybe you are frustrated because it’s taking so long to get where you want to be spiritually, vocationally or relationally. Now is the time to say, “God is not finished with me yet.” Whatever you are hoping for, remember it’s not over until God says, “It is finished.”

Keep fighting; remain determined. Aren’t you glad that Edison didn’t give up on the light bulb? That Michelangelo kept painting? Hope embraces the reality of living in a fallen world with sin and sickness but also the promises of God. We live in tension between the resurrection and Christ’s second coming.

King David knew many victories and defeats. He knew some dark days. Most of the 150 Psalms are called “Psalms of laments.” He wrote in Psalms 42:5, “Why my soul, are you downcast? Put your hope in God.” Hope in God. Sound easy? It’s not. God wants to breathe new life into you today. New hope. Where do you need hope? In what specific area of your life are you holding onto hope? Begin today by placing your hopes and dreams onto the altar of the One who knows what to do with them.

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About The Author

Dr. David Olshine is the director and professor of Youth Ministry, Family and Culture at Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina. He's the author of Studies on the Go: James, 1-2 Peter and 1-3 John (Zondervan/Youth Specialties) and the founder of Youth Ministry Coaches.

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