Editor’s note: We will face storms. But, how do we endure them well as Christians who hope in Jesus no matter the circumstances? After Hurricane Katrina, Pastor Debra Morton needed a playbook of faith for herself and for those she ministered to. Because pain happens. But we have a Savior who is the God of all hope. Enjoy this excerpt from Morton’s new book Beyond the Storm: How to Thrive in Life’s Toughest Seasons.
Strategies to Keep Your Hope Alive
1. Change your mind-set.
If you are going to hold on to your hope, you first have to win the battle in your mind. You must change your mind-set so that you remain hopeful in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations. The following strategies will help:
Be determined to learn from the past.
Bestselling author John C. Maxwell wrote a book titled Sometimes You Win — Sometimes You Learn. The entire premise of the book is about learning lessons from loss and challenge. I encourage you to do that with every failure you face. Take some time and look at what you learned from the situation. Focusing on what you learned will help you look at the loss in a more positive way and help keep you from repeating a mistake.
Focus on the future.
No matter how bad the situation is right now, you are still alive. If you have breath in your lungs, there is still more for you to do on earth. Every day we learn of people we know and don’t know who have passed away. Some die from accidents, some from sickness, and others from natural causes, but regardless of the reason, they are no longer here. That is not the case with you or me. So roll up your sleeves and get to work. Each of us has a God-ordained purpose. We were created with a unique assignment to be fulfilled.
Maximize the present.
Sometimes you need to put your phone down, shut off your computer, and fully immerse yourself in the here and now. There are moments in our lives we miss because we are busy beating ourselves up over past mistakes or we are too focused on our five-, ten-, or fifteen-year plan. Planning for the future is vital, but be careful not to be so focused on what’s next that you miss what’s going on right now. I know many successful people who would trade all their money to go back and spend more time with a family member they had neglected while building their empire. I am not saying that success is bad, but I am saying it is critical to learn how to balance your career and business aspirations while prioritizing your relationships.
Your marriage will not survive forever on autopilot. Your children will not be young forever — there are some values you must teach them while they are young. Your parents will not live forever — you must schedule the time to spend with them. Often I have found that among the individuals who grieve the hardest are those who lost a loved one they did not spend much time with because they always thought they would have more time. I recently read a quote from Bishop Rosie O’Neal that said, “Procrastination is the arrogant assumption that God owes you another chance to do tomorrow what He gave you the chance to do today.” Now, that packs a powerful punch. We should never assume that we will have another chance. We must make the most of every opportunity, seize the day, and maximize the present.
2. Eliminate negativity from your life.
One way you can keep your hope alive is by making a good confession, declaration, or affirmation over your life and circumstances. Speaking positively over your life is often easier said than done, because we are all bombarded by negativity constantly. There are four ways I cut negativity from my life on a regular basis.
Eliminate toxic, draining people.
I love people. I am a pastor. I am in the “people business.” But I learned a long time ago that there are some people I can’t afford to spend significant time with because their negativity is contagious. If you have ever been having a good day and got a call from someone (a relative, colleague, or friend) and after talking to them you felt worse, then you know precisely what I mean.
I am not talking about someone who is calling you to vent or someone who is simply having a bad day. I mean someone who is always sad and negative. If you know someone like this, I am not saying that you should never talk to them. Often they are people in your life whom you must talk to, so I am just saying you must limit their access to you or the amount of time that you spend together. For example, if it is a parent, you may choose to talk to them for the last ten minutes of your commute to work so that the conversation will have a definite ending time. I know it may sound extreme, but you will be surprised how much easier it is to hold on to your hope when the drain is not constantly being unplugged from your figurative hope “sink.”
Extract yourself from negative situations.
When you are fighting to maintain hope in your life, there are some situations you should avoid. I have found that when we are living our best lives, it is easier to believe the best. To me, “living your best life” happens when we are walking in our individual purposes and are avoiding situations that create negative emotions or action. If we focus on thinking right, talking right, and living right, we will find that it is easier to hold on to hope.
Stop focusing on people’s negative opinion of you or your past.
Decide to divorce yourself from others’ opinion of you. The truth is that there are some people who will always look at you through a negative lens. As long as you are living your best life and being the absolute best version of yourself that you can be, you can’t let their opinion affect you.
Make a good confession.
Words have power.
If you have spent any significant time in church, you have probably heard the verse
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. — found in Proverbs 18:21 NKJV
One way to keep your hope alive is by speaking hope over your life daily. So, right now, I want you to do an exercise with me. Fill in the blanks below:
I am a conqueror. I am victorious.
Although I have suffered greatly, today is a new day and
I know that my best days are yet to come. I will work diligently until ___________________________happens.
I know that I will be successful because ____________________and______________________.
I know that gratitude is important and I am grateful for ___________________________________________________. I will never give up because ___________________________. Every day I chose to win because defeat is not an option.
I want you to read the confession out loud every day for twenty-one days, because anything you do for twenty-one days becomes a habit. If you make speaking positivity into your life a practice, it will change your outlook and give you hope. If this affirmation doesn’t quite fit for you, then use mine as a formula for writing your own. It’s just important that you do it.
3. Guard your time.
There is nothing that will affect your mindset like wasted time. Be determined and strategic about whom you spend time with and what you spend time doing. Billionaire Warren Buffett said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”1 Increased success will increase your hope.
If you adopt these strategies in your life, you will find that it is a lot easier to keep your hope buckets filled!
Storm Survivor: The Shunammite Woman
The Shunammite woman is a dual storm survivor.
First, the Shunammite woman survived infertility (2 Kings 4:14). She reminds me of women I know who have waited on a desire of their heart for so long, they have quietly given up. These women are not bitter or angry. Quite the opposite. They serve in multiple areas of ministry and are faithful volunteers; however, there is something they long for more than anything else. They just keep moving so that the sting of the absence of “that one thing” does not paralyze them.
The Shunammite woman was a blessing to the prophet Elisha. In a present-day church, she might have been a lead greeter, the leader of the hospitality ministry, or a member of the pastoral care team. Elisha was determined to grant the secret petition of her heart, and only a year after his prophesying that she would have the child she had been longing for, she gave birth to a son (2 Kings 4:15–17). But after the child grew older, the unthinkable happened. Her son got a terrible headache and died (2 Kings 4:18–20).
This woman could have simply thanked God for the time that she had been allowed to be the boy’s mother and buried her son, but this mother held on to hope that her son could be healed. So she took him back to the person who started the miracle in the first place and challenged him. She put a demand on Elisha’s anointing to bring her baby back to life by the power of the almighty God, and that is just what happened.
When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.”
“Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”…
When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord. Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out. — 2 Kings 4:27-28, 2 Kings 4:32-37
Never underestimate the power of your hope and faith to completely resurrect a dead situation in your life and help you restore life after the storm.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. — Hebrews 10:23
1.Marcel Schwantes, “Warren Buffett Says This 1 Simple Habit Separates Successful People from Everyone Else,” Inc., January 18, 2018, https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/warren-buffett -says-this-is-1-simple-habit-that-separates-successful-people-from -everyone-else.html.
Excerpted with permission from Beyond the Storm: How to Thrive in Life’s Toughest Seasons by Debra Morton, copyright Debra Morton.
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Maybe you’re in a storm right now. Or you’re in the aftermath. You need hope! But, hope sometimes takes discipline. Strategy. And planning. We pin our hopes on Jesus because He is the One who saves. And, we fix our eyes on Him! Come share your thoughts on thriving beyond the storm on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full