- This is part of a leadership series on the theme of encouragement -
People cannot live without hope. Throughout history, human beings have endured the loss of many things. People have lost their health, their finances, their reputations, their careers, even their loved ones, and yet have endured. The pages of history books are filled with those who suffered pain, rejection, isolation, persecution and abuse; there have been people who faced concentration camps with unbroken spirits and unbowed heads, people who have been devastated by Job-like trials and yet found the strength to go on without cursing God and dying. Humans can survive the loss of almost anything – but not without hope.
Hope is how we live. Hope is what gets us from one day to the next. A person goes to school and hopes that one day he will graduate. That person graduates and hopes that one day he will enter into a great career. If he is single, he hopes that perhaps one day he will meet the right person and get married. He gets married and hopes that one day he and his wife will have children. When they have children, they hope that they will live long enough to get the kids out of the house.
We live by hope, and when hope is gone, endurance and joy and energy and courage just evaporate. Life itself begins to fade. When hope goes, we start to die. One of the most profound proverbs of the Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).
It could be argued that everyone has hope and that the problem with most people is simply that their hopes have been misplaced. Many people begin looking around from the time they are young and wondering what is going to pay off. Perhaps they will invest in athletics or academics. Perhaps they will invest all their hope in beauty and fashion. As we get a little older (but not always wiser) we put our hopes in wealth and status, achievement and prestige.
When we place our hope in the wrong things, one of two things is likely to happen. Either we will never make it to the level we had hoped for, in which case we end up envious or bitter. Or we make it to that level only to discover that it doesn’t fill our heart. In that case, we end up unfulfilled and disappointed.
With all this is mind, it is easy to see that few functions a leader is called upon to perform are more important than that of keeping hope alive. When others are lost in the dark, and seemingly endless, maze of despair, effective leaders drive away the darkness with positive projections for the future of their organization. They know when to come alongside of someone. They sense when a team member needs a quick admonition or a shoulder on which to cry.
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