"If someone asks about your hope, be ready to explain it in a gentle and respectful way."
1 Peter 3:15-16
In my youth I had hope without realizing it as it was part of the personality tool kit I was born with. This beautiful hope was further strengthened by my safe upbringing. People were attracted to my hope and lust for life, but when they'd ask me about it I didn't know how to answer them. I had no explanation for my radiant life outside of telling them about the power of the Holy Ghost. While that's the complete bottom-line answer, it wasn't necessarily the most enticing of answers.
In my adult years I experienced the natural knocks and bangs of life. In the process of being shifted around, and knocked about I lost that all-purpose, perfect little tool called, "hope." I found myself utterly hopeless. I saw no reason to raise my kids when I could point to several other people in their lives that I felt could do a better job than I could. I saw no reason to work in my calling of worship leading because singers are a dime-a-dozen. I saw no reason to write because I'm an uneducated wannabe. I saw no reason to fellowship with friends because either I would end up dragging them down with my life-reality, or I was too weak to help them carry their burdens. I was truly hopeless. I asked God many times a day (for many years) to take my life. Proverbs 13:12 talks about how a lack of hope makes the heart sick. Boy, he wasn't kidding. Out of the heart come the issues (the flow) of life. A sick heart infected with hopelessness affects the whole body.
But, "when the desire cometh," Proverbs goes on to read, "it is a tree of life." Whereas its true that obtaining what we hope for is a really great feeling, DESIRE itself is a tree of life! I've experienced the difference in receiving what I wanted, and desiring something. While receiving is a win indeed, the thrill of that newness fades and I'm back to needing another "fix." But DESIRE wakes me up every day with anticipation. If my mood is down, or if I'm ill, or if I'm weighed down with present reality-of-life, DESIRE makes me get dressed, go for a run, breathe deep and chill, read a book to pass the time. DESIRE for certain things (not exclusively material possessions, sometimes it's a desire for situations, relationships, accomplishments) is a tree with roots of stability. Hope deferred makes the heart so sick, in turn the whole of life is sick. But DESIRE is a tree that produces fruit. A special fruit called, "LIFE!"
I started looking for my hope tool because it was becoming obvious that God was ignoring my plea for The Next Life. He was definitely hearing me pray, clearly. Because he was answering all of the other prayers I'd pray. He was just stubbornly refusing to answer "that" prayer.
After some books (and prayer asking God to help me want to live) I began some deliberate outward behaviors in efforts to trigger inward desires. I called these exercises my "happy habits." Every hour (my phone alerts were set) I'd stand from my seating (usually at a desk) and I'd stretch, or do some push-ups (uh-hem. I closed my office door as I didn't want to intimidate my fellow workers with my great might.) I'd smile-for-no-reason (Yes. I just smiled into empty space) And I would speak aloud something I was thankful for. It took about a year, but I started to feel a difference.
It's been about two and a half years now, but I definitely have hope! I must be honest with you, sometimes the desire hurts. Wanting what seems impossible aches to my bones. But, I'm aware that these aches are growing pains, whereas my old ache was due to hope being deferred.
But here's the really cool part about my present state of hope; I'm a better witness for Christ now.
NOW when people are attracted to me I am ready to give them a more thorough answer. I'm able to guide them to the source of my tree of life; Christ.
Christ's love for me enables me to trust that goodness is in store for me. When I'm in a blue mood it doesn't feel like the end of the world because I know He's going to work things out for my good. He has my best interests at heart. He has plans for me that have a beautiful outcome.
Soul winners need more than that perfect and beautiful Acts 2:38 experience. Souls winner need to exhibit HOPE in our hopeless world.