How to Lead With Hope

The hope you need is not in a vaccine, “back to normal” church, or anything visible — it’s in the presence of Jesus risen! The people you care for and lead are desperate for this hope today.

When I was a Pastor of Spiritual Formation, Barbie, on my staff nicknamed me Eeyore. She smiled, “It’s because you’re so witty and lovable!” But it was also because I focused on the problems that needed to be fixed and at times got grumpy.

I wanted to be more joyful like Tigger — that was Barbie. So when I taught classes in church I had her stand in the back of the room and hold up a sign of a huge smiling face! That’s how I learned to smile more.

Was I just pasting a smile on my face to be a more effective speaker?

No. I was practicing fixing my eyes on the unseen blessing of Jesus risen from the dead, shining with glory, and present to love me and the people I was ministering to! I was cultivating hope.

Since I started venturing out in my speaking ministry with hopeful faith in the Lord, I’ve seen time and again that the unseen Spirit warms our hearts, gives us life-changing insights, and energizes community and mission.

This is the power of hope. But what is hope? It’s often misunderstood or diluted.

Hope is not wishful thinking or pumping up optimism. Hope is the anticipation of unseen good from God. It’s the spring of faith, love, and all blessings and virtues (Col. 1:5).

In the Bible Paul is a Pastor of Hope. In a time of suffering worse than most anyone is experiencing today, he beams, “Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry we do not lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:1). To have heart is to have hope and the courage it inspires.

How were things going in his ministry? He was hard-pressed in his church planting work, often perplexed about what to do, continually criticized and persecuted, and even struck down when he survived being stoned to death (2 Cor. 4:8-9).

Where’s God’s mercy in those sufferings? Where’s the hope?

It’s in Jesus risen from the dead and present with him in the unseen world of God’s kingdom. That’s the glorious hope that Paul fixed the eyes of his heart on as he preached, talked with people, worked his fingers to the bone making tents, and endured leadership fatigue and being treated badly (2 Cor. 4:14-18).

What steps can you take to live and lead with more hope?

1. Seek empathy

The typical approach to being hopeful is to deny emotions of discouragement or doubt and generate positivity. In contrast, empathy between friends names, validates, and cares for feelings to facilitate the friendship with God that nourishes and strengthens your ability to love others well (2 Cor. 5:20).

2. Meditate on Bible passages

Feeding on God’s word also increases your hope, especially if you set aside extended time to “come away” with Jesus in quiet solitude (Col. 3:16; Mark 6:31).

3. Look for God to “show up”

To grow in hope one more step is essential: Follow God’s call to do something good that you can’t do in your own strength, but only by depending on the unseen Spirit. Jesus will guide, provide, and strengthen in surprising ways (Heb. 11:1, 8-12).

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Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: As we come into Holy Week, many of us bring with us feelings of discouragement, disappointment, and even despair. In life with Christ, hope is not wishful thinking. It is full of strength and it begins with naming what we’re experiencing and being heard in community. When we take Christ’s hand, along with others in our faith community, we step into his kingdom of hope. 

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