It’s such a beautiful idea, to hold hope for others while they cannot.
It isn’t my original idea, of course. Nor is it really a new idea to me, but the last couple of days it has been pressing on my mind, wanting to be wondered about.
Holders of Hope… holding hope for others. What does this look like?
Let’s get one thing straight first: It’s not romantic. It sounds like it could be romantic. It has that whole sacrificial vibe, the image of a long suffering person valiantly clasping hope to themselves for the sake of another. But yeah, naaaaah. It’s not romantic.
The fact is, we need hope. Without hope we won’t seek healing because we won’t actually believe it’s going to happen. And with no healing, we will never grow past the things that hurt us. We will be stuck at a point of time, a barrier effectivity stunting our growth and change. We stagnate, and worse, we start to shrivel up, dry up, die. Wow, that sounds pretty dramatic. So it should! Not having hope is a big deal!
So, what does “holding hope” look like?
Well. It’s messy. People don’t lose hope for no reason. The people who lose hope do so because they’ve been dealing with hard circumstances for a long time. This could be so many things: ongoing abuse, broken relationships, poverty, sickness, trauma, grief. They could be struggling with depression, literally not being able to see how anything could ever change. And you know what? When you’re in the midst of something that is sucking the life out of you, you don’t have the vantage point to be able to see change on the horizon. You’re stuck in a ditch and you truly believe you’ll always be there.
This is why it’s so important for people outside of the circumstances to be willing to come alongside people who find themselves unable to hope. They need someone with a different perspective on things, someone who can breathe life into them and speak hope over them.
But what does this mean for the people who are standing in the gap for these people who find themselves desperate? What does it mean to advocate for a person, to the person? How can we effectively have hope for them until they can have hope for themselves?
Firstly, don’t get in the ditch.
You don’t help someone out of a ditch by getting in there with them. You can’t maintain a healthy, true perspective if you allow yourself to get so consumed by their circumstances that you’re effectively “in the ditch” with them. It becomes too easy to get overwhelmed by their circumstances yourself if you aren’t careful.
Listen and actually hear them.
The struggle, the hopelessness, the ditch. It’s their reality. Don’t make light of it, don’t dismiss it. Hear them, respond, care. Above all, care. If they are to trust themselves with you, they must feel cared for and loved and valued. They must feel like they are worth your time and effort. Being listened to and heard is essential for fostering the restoration of hope.
Tell them what you see.
They are without hope and without view of a future where things are better, easier, happier, simpler, safer. Be wise in what and how you share, but make sure that you are helping them remember that where they are now isn’t permanent. Encourage them that this doesn’t have to last forever… things can change. Help them simply by being someone they can talk to. Help them by gently revealing any blind spots, any untruths, they might believe and bringing truth to them. Be a voice of hope for them. Speak life over them. If you hear gossip about them shut it down if you can.
Remember that the journey isn’t straightforward.
Three steps forward, two steps back. Walking in circles. Both things can be true for someone who finds that they have lost their hope. It’s normal that their journey isn’t straightforward. Don’t be shocked if positive steps and progress are followed by a stumble or fall where it seems they are worse than they were before. Fresh hope is easily bruised. Be patient.
In all things, through all things, pray. Keep the person in your prayers and present their case to God. Remember that, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). People need hope the same way a sick person needs medicine, the same way a body needs water and food. It’s not easy, but it is a privilege to walk with someone while they struggle, and to believe in them and encourage them until (and after) they can find hope again.