When Hope Is Gone


Are you looking at circumstances and losing hope, or are you making decisions that will transform your life?

Many people are confronted with the fact that their dreams did not come true, their job still stinks, and life is no better than last year. What do you do when hope seems to be fading? What “circumstances” have caused you to lose hope?

A couple of years ago, Joanne and I had the pleasure of doing a two-hour presentation at the Tennessee Prision for Women. Joanne is a regular there—loves the ladies and they love her. I was just invited in to talk about finding work you love. Now how could I present all the opportunities I normally outline when opportunities are obviously limited? But guess what? This was likely one of the most attentive and engaged audiences I’ve ever spoken to. Rather than moaning about no opportunities, this crowd talked excitedly about being able to make wise decisions in choosing hairdressing, horticulture, commercial cleaning, medical sciences, or completing a degree in classes with other Lipscomb University students.They readily grasped the idea of looking at themselves first and then finding a proper match in work being selected. And yes, about 75 percent of this group does have the prospect of being outside again at some time in the future. The remaining 25 percent, who will never get out, recognize the choices they have in living a life of purpose nonetheless. And all, under the powerful inspiration of Chaplain Walker, refer to their “campus,” not their “prison.”

The responses here reminded me of the work of Viktor Frankl. In 1943, Viktor, his wife and his parents were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. His only crime was that of being Jewish. He survived the Holocaust, but his wife and both parents were murdered there. It was due to his suffering that he came to the conclusion that even in the most inhumane and painful circumstances, life has potential meaning. He later wrote this:

  • “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Man's Search for Meaning

I was amazed to see the ‘attitude’ of the women at TPW. It gave me a new perspective on how easily we can complain about our “circumstances.” It also reminded me that often when fewer options are available, hope seems to be more present. Believing that all hope is gone is a personal choice. Circumstances do not dictate that—only we can choose to believe that. Are you looking at circumstances and losing hope, or are you making decisions that will transform your life?


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