Hopelessness is often our drive for change. We are wired for comfort, and we resist change unless there is a sense of urgency.
Listening to the sermon yesterday had me responding with a lot of, “ohhh”, “ohh yeah, totally” and “yup, for suuuuure” thoughts, and to be completely honest, verbal cues that maybe only those close to me would recognize as affirming statements. Bob had such powerful statements all throughout the sermon, but I couldn’t get the above italics out of my head. For me, being in recovery, it is entirely too relatable.
While the term hopelessness initially makes me think of the glaring moments in my life where I felt completely and utterly hopeless, it then takes me through the moments that tended to lead to the final destination that led me to declare and cry out in said hopelessness.
I tried to quit smoking cigarettes for years. Sometimes these were half-hearted attempts fueled by something other than my desire to actually stop, but the last few times that led to the permanence had me feeling utterly hopeless. I recall those last few cigarettes: the sticky, old burnt taste in my mouth and the stench that a relit half a cigarette left on my fingers… the very last cigarette (an off brand from my normal choice) that had me physically ill on a public bathroom stall floor for over three hours… I didn’t think I would ever fully be able to quit smoking and give it up for good until I had these moments, trapped in bondage from a dried plant rolled up in paper. For something that small to have that much control over me and the physical illness I had from it left me feeling utterly hopeless.
I have been cigarette free for over five years now.
How about the time I realized I really had absolutely no control over my drinking? I vividly recall trying to walk past one of the bars on my way to work and being stopped dead in my tracks. It was like I was being pulled to the bar like a magnet. I wanted to keep walking… I wanted not to go in. I could not will my feet to move my body away from the bar. I stood there fully realizing I had lost all choice in the matter as the obsession was too powerful to overcome. I went in, and two weeks later I had my last drink, marked by a catastrophic car accident that left me forever changed.
I have been alcohol-free for just under eight years now.
Beyond substances, I have felt completely and utterly hopeless about many different things and situations in my life. I am a stubborn and all-too-self-reliant person, truly defining “resistance to change” and, usually, even when there is a sense of urgency. Over and over and over again, I seem to have to hit a place of total hopelessness too deep for me to gather up the courage and will to change. It really can be quite frustrating, my own stubbornness, but I’ll tell you something else:
Jesus has changed me.
Over the years I have experienced freedom from the obsession to use drugs and alcohol. I have experienced freedom from destructive and abusive relationships. I have experienced freedom from the fears and anxiety and depression that plagued me. I have experienced the joy that comes with the heart changes that take place when I give my life to Christ and do my best, on any given day, to walk in accordance with the scriptures.
Courage is something the Lord can fill us with, and we can practice when we put our faith and trust in Him and just keep moving forward. In the end, I never gave up. I wanted to, and I thought I did, but He was not done with me yet! My resistance to change and need to hit “rock bottom” in almost all situations does not need to be the path you take. I don’t even take that path all the time anymore! Truth be told, I seldom have to hit any level of hopelessness to spur change! I have had a LOT of practice and worked VERY hard to let go and change from within; allowing the love of Christ and my faith to alter how I behave. This also does not need to be your path! You can choose to drop the stubbornness in favor of listening to what the Lord lays on your heart and just following His guidance.
Want to know a well-known secret?
THIS path is MUCH easier and SO much more rewarding!
There will still be difficulties and lessons to learn, but what I have learned (the hard way… repeatedly) is that we do not have to get to a state of complete hopelessness to change when we have hope in Him.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20
I pray that wherever you need that extra courage to change, that you not only find it but know that I am continuing to change right alongside you. He will carry us through it all, we just need to let Him.