Mental health is as important as physical health. Our mind matters so we must mind our matters. As Christians, we don’t handle matters on our own. We look to God to help us through them. It’s how we get through them that matters, and having hope is one of the ways we can keep our minds healthy.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines hopes as ‘to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.’ Having hope is different from having expectations. One writer put it this way:
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all. – Emily Dickinson
Having hope means you are trusting the process. Having an expectation means you are trusting the results.
Having a hope means that the future is uncertain. Having an expectation means that you are predetermining the future.
Having a hope is an action of humility. Having an expectation can be an act of pride.
Having a hope does not disappoint. Having an expectation often falls short.
Having a hope helps us acknowledge that God knows best. Having an expectation often indicates that you know best.
Having a hope produces a life of faith. Having an expectation produces a life of entitlement.”
As people in a fallen world, we will come across situations that will test us, sometimes to the core. Having hope and operating from a mindset of hopefulness sets us up for long-term success because it’s something stored inside; no one can take it away, not even the worst of circumstances. Below are five benefits of exercising hope and what it can mean for our mental health.
Hope is Now
Hope doesn’t expire. It goes on whether people are willing to believe with us or not. There can be a hundred things coming against us but when we hope for the best and keep moving with gratitude, which is hope for now, not after everything has gotten better.
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called – his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. – Ephesians 1:18
What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. – Hebrews 11:1
Hope helps our mental health because it works this very second. Hope is not some far-away dream that doesn’t exist or benefit us now. Why would believers in Christ need faith if there were not something to hope for, to begin with? High hopes do not set us up for failure; high hopes today remind us we’re not restricted to even the good we think could happen.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – Ephesians 3:20
If we’re asking and thinking, then we are alive to do them, and that is proof hope is for now.
Hope is Vision
George Washington Carver said it well. “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”
Hope is for now, but hope is also for tomorrow. Maybe we’re hoping that the new company we applied with will call us for an interview because we know we need change; the unnecessary stress has caused high blood pressure and Lord willing we’ll live to enjoy life and hug our grandkids.
Maybe we’re hoping to achieve a financial goal once thought to be impossible. Maybe we hope that by following our doctor’s orders to take specific steps toward better overall health, we’ll overcome a temporary obstacle in our life. Maybe our current situation is rough and feels never-ending. Hope gets us outside of ourselves and leaves no room for despair to take over our minds.
Proverbs 29:18 in The Message version says, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.”Hope is vision, easy on the mind, and gives us room to grow outside a personal ceiling we may have put on ourselves or that someone else tried to give us. It strips us of manmade labels to free us from the trap of small thinking. Jonathan Swift said, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”
Hope will not let us be easily discouraged. It blesses our minds as it sets our sights above the mirage of being constricted. It’s the zoomed-out version of God’s will, and though we can’t see the entirety of His will, we are blessed with a hope which allows us to see beyond this present moment.
To have hope, we need God’s help. We must first believe in Him by faith. Faith is ultimately trusting in Him, and by trusting in Him our mental health will soar far more than if we’re trying to go it alone. This brings us full circle to why having hope helps our health. Hope requires vision, and to see Christ is the end goal.
Hope is Power
Most of us have heard the glass half empty or glass half full mentalities. Having hope is like having a glass half full mindset. When we come up against something hard, there are multiple ways we can perceive it.
The option that leaves us experiencing possibilities beyond the moment we are in is the best choice for our mental health. Trauma and mistakes try to keep us trapped at the time of their happening, but hope is like fuel, giving us the energy to push forward so we can move into the freedom to keep living our lives.
There’s an important section in Galatians 5. In some Bibles it’s titled, Living by the Spirit’s Power. The first verse states, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives…”
If hope gives us the energy to keep going, trusting the process while leaving the results of a situation in God’s hands, then hopelessness drains our energy. We need true power if we don’t want to live mentally defeated or bogged down. Having hope helps keep our minds from running down the shoulda’, woulda’, coulda’ path. Where there are life-giving thoughts, there is hope. Hope is power.
Hope is Happy
When life feels like a rollercoaster, we can look like happy, little kids with my hands held high. People may ask, “What will you do if this doesn’t work out?” You can fill in the blank with something you might be going through.
A typical reply might go something like, “I don’t know!” But we must learn not to be ashamed of how hopefully happy we are, even in difficult circumstances. This comes with practice over time and cannot be achieved on my own. This same power from the Lord is available to all His children.
Isn’t it nice to know we can smile and hold our head high as children of God, no matter what we might be facing? It’s a splendid truth. And because of this, we learn that happiness is less valuable than joy. They’re both from Christ, and “happy” is the word used to define how we are when joy, peace, faith, and hope rule our hearts.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. – Galatians 5:22
If hope leaves me feeling happy, that leads me to believe the Holy Spirit experiences happiness.
Hope is Strength
When our minds are worn out, overwhelmed, or frustrated, we can learn to run to the well of hope. Sometimes life can feel like a tangled mess. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves being depleted of life-giving thoughts that honor God and keep Him larger than the problem.
In tough times that test us and stretch us thin, we need strength. Because sometimes the lunch break doesn’t happen. Sometimes the computer eats our files. Sometimes four hours of sleep are all we get. Sometimes the kids are hurting, and we can’t fix it. Let’s face it, some days are just more challenging than others.
Holding onto hope helps our mental health whether we’re daunted by daily tasks, complications in relationships we have not yet worked through, diagnoses, or the general unknown.
Reality requires hope and hope never runs out. There’s enough for each day. It’s an inner resting place when we can’t physically lay down and nap about it. And we can’t forget, naps are temporary, but hope is eternal!
Psalms 62:5-6 NLT says, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.”
Christian Counseling for Renewed Mental Health
Hopefully, these five truths will steep into your soul, blessing your mind with a fresh way of seeing the benefits of hope for your mental health. If you would like additional mental health support beyond this article, please contact our reception team to schedule a counseling appointment.
“Hope on the Rocks”, Courtesy of Nick Fewings, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Summit”, Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sunbeams Through the Trees”, Courtesy of Wonderlane, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hope”, Courtesy of Carl Hunley Jr., Unsplash.com, CC0 License