“5 Places to Look When Hope Is Gone,” Ensign, August 2018
“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all
Do you ever feel like hope uses its feathers to fly as far away from you as possible? As though a loss, trauma, or a long unfulfilled wish has snuffed out the song of any hope?
Perhaps you have seen a growing cynicism in the world around you. Or perhaps you have seen the melancholy weight of hopelessness in yourself. I believe that at some point, likely at several points in life, we all do. And while the temptation to sink into the sludge of despair can be bitterly appealing, hope is the “anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19), and we need that anchor!
But no matter how dismal things may seem, hope can always be found. Hope itself exists because Jesus Christ suffered an infinite Atonement. Hope is as infinite as His Atonement, so it truly “never stops—at all.” So where do you find such abiding hope when tendrils of despair are circling? Here are five places to look when hope is gone.
In our darkest hours, the present can feel woefully empty and the future can seem like a churning chasm of dread. When you feel hopeless, you might not be able to imagine things ever getting better.
So when looking to the future is too hard, look to the past. Remember moments when you have felt peace and joy. Recall the times you have felt the Spirit, times you’ve felt loved or happy. But remember the hard times too. Think of other times you’ve had doubts, pain, and hopelessness before, and remember that you got through those times.
“Because God has been faithful and kept His promises in the past, we can hope with confidence that God will keep His promises to us in the present and in the future,” said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.2 We can banish dread in the future by looking to the past.
Take a breath. Feel your pulse. Note the thoughts running through your brain. If you can move and think—if you even exist—there is power within you to bring to pass much righteousness (see Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–28). You’re alive, and that means that you have the power to change something and find purpose and peace again. You can find hope in your very existence because you are a child of God, blessed with life, agency, and strength. Every beat in your chest and every thought in your brain is proof that there is hope.
Taking time to rest and recharge is important, but when hopelessness strikes, it can be tempting to overindulge in self-care, which, ironically, can exacerbate the problem. “Maybe the reason we don’t have more hope is because we don’t give enough hope to others,” said Elder John H. Groberg, emeritus General Authority Seventy. “If we want more hope, let’s give more hope to others—be more encouraging.”3 If you’re feeling hopeless, look outside yourself and find someone to uplift. “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves,” wrote J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan.4
Life is hard. That is a universal truth. Many people have faced and overcome tremendous adversity. Read or listen to their stories and let them be your role models as you search for hope again.
An easy place to start is the scriptures, which were written so that we “might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Joseph Smith carried hope even through adversities that made him cry out from his jail cell, “O God, where art thou?” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1). Alma the Younger found hope even after remembering all his sins and feeling “tormented with the pains of hell” (Alma 36:13). And even while being burned by King Noah, Abinadi’s final words resounded with resilient and unfailing hope: “O God, receive my soul” (Mosiah 17:19). How did these people have such hope even during the most hopeless situations? What can you learn about hope from their examples?
Looking to Christ is the surest way we can find hope because He can bring anyone “again unto a lively hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Thanks to His sacrifice, Jesus Christ has power over all loss, sin, and death. He has the power to lift, resurrect, and restore. He is the ultimate source of hope.
Strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ by reading and living His teachings, and the hope you feel will increase (see Alma 25:16; Ether 12:9). When you look to the Savior, “He will do all in his power to encourage you, lift you up, give you hope, help you in every way possible, so that with a ‘steadfastness in Christ’ we may attain to that ‘perfect brightness of hope’ and then discouragement and despair are gone,” said Elder Groberg.5