"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Choose to Hope

Did you know that hope is not an emotion?

Did you know that hope is a choice, a learned skill, a cognitive process and way of thinking?*

Emotion plays a part in hope... we can feel hopeful, of course.  Or, we can feel hopeless.  But, hope is a way--an avenue we can take-- hope is a way we can choose to think or not think.  It is a choice.  It involves our will and our minds... and, even more important it is fueled by our spirits and hearts.

I am utterly fascinated by this thought tonight as I continue to read Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection.  Certainly and deliberately not a Christian book, her research and her conclusions are chalked full of deep insight and God's Truth.  This delights me!

Hope is focusing on the unseen... and believing that it will be, or that it is.  That is essentially what faith is--- a  "seeing" of an unsee-able God, a hoping in an "unseeable" but very certain future; and it is a choice to fix our hearts and minds on Him, His Truth and His victory in the now and the not-yet.  This is hope.  This is faith.  I don't have to "feel" it necessarily.  I can choose it!... "I believe.  Help my unbelief" comes to mind.  (Mark 9:24)

The feeling of hopefulness then can closely follow the choice to hope.  We strike the match, we light the candle and warmth and glow follow.

According to research, this way of thinking---and the following hopefulness---produces resilience, wholehearted and genuine living.  And, to add to the beauty of this research... is that hope-thinking can be cultivated.  

What a great word!  It can be cultivated.  It can be grown.  We can cultivate hope!  We can choose to turn our eyes to the unseen and hope in Him!

I am not  naturally a hope-filled person.  Anyone who knows me well, knows the Stephanie-mantra, "The key to happiness is low expectations."  After pondering this concept of hope cultivation---I am more and more bothered with this mantra that has ruled my life for so long.  Helpful?  Yes, of course.  It protects me from disappointment.  A coping mechanism of sorts, to be sure.  But, I am wondering how this affects my view of God---
I want to choose and cultivate hope...  I want to choose today to have high expectations and hope in God.  He will be Present tomorrow!  He will come through.  He always has!  I can expect Him to lead and to protect and to show Himself faithful to me.

And, according to the research, do you know how we seem to learn it best, as well?  We seem to learn hope best "in the context of other people" (Gifts of Imperfection, pg. 66)

We learn to hope by being with and watching other people who hope and who teach us to hope by their consistency.   We learn to hope by experiencing faithfulness in friendship, consistency and healthy boundaries within relationships.  Other people teach us to hope.  I love this!  The Body of Christ--- the church, the family, the fellowship of "two or three"--- is the perfect classroom for practicing and learning the skill of choosing and walking in hope.

You can teach me! I can teach you.  I can teach my children and my children can teach me.  We can spur each other on toward "hope"!  We can invite each other into the joy of living within the feeling of hopefulness.

So, my friends, I issue an invitation to you!  Come with me and choose to hope today.  I say to you...  God Almighty is faithful.  His love is sweet and His Presence is filling and powerful.  He is and He was and He will always be...  Come in, walk one more step forward, enter into His rest today---taste and see that the Lord is good.

 (*according to psychology and the research psychologists, C.R.Snyder)
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