The Psalmist’s exclaimed a deep sigh of discontent: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 43:5, ESV) In his book Winning Life’s Toughest Battles, psychologist Julius Segal wrote about the 25,000 soldiers who were held by the Japanese in POW camps during World War II: "Forced to exist under inhumane conditions, many of them died. Others, however, survived and eventually returned home. There was no reason to believe there was a difference in the stamina of these two groups of soldiers. The survivors, however, were different in one major respect: They confidently expected to be released someday." As described by Robins Readers in Holding On to Hope, 'They talked about the kinds of homes they would have, the jobs they would choose, and even described the kind of person they would marry. They drew pictures on the walls to illustrate their dreams. Some even found ways to study subjects related to the kind of career they wanted to pursue.'" Hope rises out of utter hopelessness and can only be appreciated when seen from this standpoint, thus hope produces its best fruit when fully trodden down.
What’s going on? Allow me to share some statistics that I’ve come across to demonstrate this state:
- Over 25,000 Americans commit suicide each year. Over one million will try but only one out of fifteen will succeed. It is the tenth highest killer in the U.S. More will die by suicide than by murder.
- The model age for attempting suicide is 32 for men and 27 for women. The model age of succeeding is 50-54 for men and women.
- Men kill themselves twice as often as women, but women attempt suicide twice as often as men.
- There are over 5,000 suicides among teen-agers each year.
- Some 10,000 college students will attempt suicide in a year. It is the second highest cause of death among young people aged 15-24 surpassed only by accidents.
- Thirteen young adults each day consider life not worth the living. That is twice as many as ten years ago and three times as many as twenty years ago.
- One report indicated that as many as 12 percent of all school-aged children will contemplate suicide at least once in their formative years.
What can we do to counter such trouble? Here’s some specific suggestions for consideration (a) Realize that there are hopeless situations in our lives and in this world that can cause probing questions within: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (b) The only remedy that a genuine believer of God can declare is “Hope in God!” (c) There must be a constant renewal of dependence on God’s wisdom, saving power and sovereignty: “…for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
How can we affect others and to encourage them to hope as well? Let’s start by learning to empathize and tell others to “Hope in God” as Jesus did with others in a hopeless situation. At the cross, Jesus empathize by dying in our behalf while He sympathize with Mary and Martha at the death of Lazarus when he wept. Thus, we must attempt to alleviate hopelessness around us and to follow Jesus’ example that He set for us to do. Speak constantly of one’s “Hope in God” like Jesus did in the midst of a hopeless situation. Exhibit evidences of what “Hope in God” is all about through worship, joy and courage.
Lastly, here’s a poem by John Maxwell from “Think on These Things” to express this level of hopefulness and to be known by others:
Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest.
Hope motivates when discouragement comes.
Hope energizes when the body is tired.
Hope sweetens while bitterness bites.
Hope sings when all melodies are gone.
Hope believes when evidence is eliminated.
Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.
Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.
Hope endures hardship when no on is caring.
Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.
Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.
Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.
Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.
Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.
Let’s talk again!