Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Kenneth Hutcherson's book, Hope is Contagious: Trusting God in the Face of Any Obstacle, (Zondervan).
When life is going well for you, it's easy to feel hopeful. But when this fallen world brings trouble into your life, feelings of hopelessness can come in, too. Thankfully, the hope that God offers is much more than a feeling: It's the reality of His presence with you. You can experience that hope in any situation - even if your health fails, you lose your job, your spouse leaves, or some other tragedy hits you. Here's how to find hope in any situation:
Stop simply surviving and start thriving. Don't let difficult circumstances stop you from making the most of each day you're alive. Realize that even when times are tough, you can do much more than just endure your current situation. You can actually enjoy life to the fullest - even in the middle of the worst circumstances - when you remember that life if a gift from God and decide to embrace it. Ask God to help you notice His presence with you in every situation, and rejoice when you sense Him nearby. Pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind each day so you can have the positive attitudes you need to thrive no matter what is going on in your life.
Choose to trust. When something bad happens in your life, don't respond by arguing with God or rebelling against Him. Instead, trust God to keep His promise to use all circumstances - including the bad ones - to accomplish good purposes in your life. Remember that God is perfect, so He can't make any mistakes, and whatever He chooses to do is for a good purpose. If He has allowed something difficult to happen to you, there's a reason.
Learn and grow from your struggles. God allows you to experience challenging circumstances so you can learn to love and trust Him in deeper ways, and so you can grow more mature, developing a strong character to become more like Jesus. Keep in mind that God is more interested in your lasting holiness than your temporary happiness, because holiness will help you learn to choose what's best for you. Ask God to help you see your struggles from His perspective. Let your struggles teach you whatever God wants you to learn from them. As you deal with the difficulties in your life, stay focused on what matters most - eternal values - so you can grow into a stronger person in the process.
Resist temptations to sin. Don't turn to sinful behaviors to try to escape the pain of the tough circumstances you experience; doing so will only make your pain worse. Instead, pray for the strength you need to resist temptation, and pour out your feelings to God. God will respond by giving you comfort that you can't find from any other source.
Attract others to faith as they watch you. Other people are watching you as you deal with difficult situations. If you respond by being faithful to Jesus, they'll be drawn to Him themselves because you'll show them what real faith in action looks like, and that's attractive. So rather than complaining about your struggles or compromising your values as you try to deal with them, invite Jesus to shine His light through your life, and reflect His character qualities so other people can see how a relationship with Him can help them when they face their own struggles.
Want what God wants for you. Don't make the mistake of thinking that God doesn't care about you if He doesn't give you whatever you ask Him for. Realize that God loves you so much that He gives you what you need, even when it's not what you want. Keep in mind that, because of your limited perspective on life compared to God's unlimited perspective, sometimes you ask God for something that seems good but can actually harm you. Trust in the fact that God knows what you need to have the life that brings you the greatest good. Ask God to bring your desires in line with His will for you.
Overcome fear. No matter what kind of situation you may find yourself facing, don't be afraid, because God will always be with you and have your best interests in mind since He loves you. Whenever feelings of fear creep into your life, turn to God for the help you need to overcome them and successfully navigate your circumstances. Whenever you sense God calling you to do something that requires taking a risk, move forward without fear because God will empower you to do whatever He calls you to do.
Keep heaven in mind. Remember all that awaits you in heaven at the end of your life here on Earth. Let the anticipation of the wonderful experiences you'll have in heaven motivate you to meet your current challenges with the hope, which will lead to the strength you'll need to get through any situation. As you think about heaven, focus your mind on what truly matters and let distractions go so you can live life to the fullest right now.
Don't give up. Whenever your sense of hope starts running out, ask God to renew you with a fresh dose of hope so you can continue to faithfully deal with the difficult situations that come your way. Be confident that at the right time, God will reward you for your faithfulness if you don't give up your faith in the middle of challenging circumstances. Count on God to give you more hope whenever you ask Him for it.
Adapted from Hope is Contagious: Trusting God in the Face of Any Obstacle, copyright Dr. Kenneth Hutcherson. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.
Dr. Ken Hutcherson is the senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church, a multicultural community of faith in the greater Seattle area. A former professional football player, he played for the Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers, and Dallas Cowboys. He lives with his family in Redmond, Washington.