This month I’ve written all about joy. Hope is crucial to joy and because it is such an important precursor, I want to step back and take a look at hope’s influence on joy. Hope defined is “confident expectation.” It’s not just a wish or longing, but being convinced and assured of a belief you hold about a situation, person or circumstance. For me, I put my hope in Christ. I trust that even during a difficult circumstance God is there to guide and hold me. I know from experience that during difficult circumstances it can be easy to lose hope. Have you lost your hope? Has a situation, person or, circumstance caused you to lose hope this Christmas? Here are 4 helpful habits for you to have hope-filled holidays despite challenges.
Habit for Hope #1: Look Beyond Circumstance to Keep Moving Forward
Having a creative imagination helps keep your mind thinking beyond what current situations are surrounding you. Maybe you lost your job so gift buying is not in an ability this season. But hope allows visualization beyond the current circumstance and creativity in how you can give of your time or love as a gift.
Just because you can’t give someone a material gift don’t let that stop you from going to the Christmas party. If the people at the party are REALLY friends they won’t care if you don’t have a big expensive gift to give. Go anyway, move forward with your life and enjoy the Holiday!
Hopeful people face disappointment and failure like anyone else, perhaps even more so, but the difference is that where others freeze, hopeful people keep on moving forward.
Habit for Hope #2: Seek Inspiration by Working with Others
Simple moments can give the tiniest instances of encouragement that help to fan the flame of hope during the holidays. A smile from a stranger can spark a whisper of hope even when grieving an important loss suffered during the holidays.
It is extremely difficult to lose a loved one during the holidays. Make sure you spend time with friends and family to help spark those simple moments that bring hope and joy. It could be sharing humorous memories of the lost loved one, or participating in an activity they enjoyed, like decorating the Christmas tree with their ornaments or driving around town seeing the twinkling lights of Christmas. Regardless collaborate and spend time with those who can help give you hope during the holidays.
Hopeful people thrive on the collaboration of many minds. They surround themselves with people who encourage one another in their unique abilities so each person might contribute toward creative projects, relationships, or community goals.
Habit for Hope #3: Believe Hope Everyday by Embracing Uncertainty
This sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true. Believing Hope helps you see the good in every day. When you choose to trust in the Lord you are believing in TRUE hope; the confident expectation of joy. Because of this everyday practice you have less to stress about during the Holidays. You’ll successfully experience joy despite any negative encounters you have at a tense or uncomfortable family gathering during the holidays.
The uncertainty of a potential negative encounter can cause a lack of desire or even a fear of going to a holiday family gathering. But, because of hope you can go without the fear of a potential negative encounter with your disgruntled Aunt high-jacking your spiritual joy. This allows you to still enjoy visiting with your favorite cousin, who will also be at the family Christmas gathering. Without hope the mere thought of a negative encounter has the potential to derail you from attempting to enjoy the holidays with your family.
Hopeful people recognize that all things and people have potential to change for the better over time. The impermanence of circumstance becomes opportunity– each day brings a helpful dynamic or change, and conversely, bad days will eventually turn into good and people’s negative attitudes won’t have anywhere near the power needed to high-jack your joy.
Habit for Hope #4: Keeping Childlike Wonder Alive through Gratitude & Faith
The pure nature of gratitude in and of itself helps to activate the hope that lives inside each of us. When we are thankful for what we already have it gives us hope for more. It allows for the abundance of joy that we can experience to overflow to others allowing cheer to become contagious during the holidays. When we are in joy we are more open, thus more likely to make decisions in faith rather than fear.
Relationships, or the lack of them, during the holidays are hard. Loneliness is sometimes self-inflicted from fear. If you have been hurt by others you may be afraid to reach out and invest in relationships, but that is what leads to loneliness. Make sure you are investing in relationships all year round so you aren’t lonely during the holidays. Risk reaching out even if you have been hurt before. I talk more about the importance of this in a post found here.
If you are blessed with being surrounded by loved ones this Christmas and know someone who is not as fortunate, reach out to them. Sure it’s a risk they will reject you, but you can conquer fear of rejection with gratitude for those relationships you are secure in and surrounded by.
The essential characteristic that most hopeful people all have in common is not being afraid in taking a risk and in fact often are excited to ask – “What’s around the next corner?” They’ve retained the same wide-eyed wonder as a child has, constantly seeking, exploring and learning as much as possible.
Christmas time is a time for joy. Practicing hope is essential to joy as it is the precursor to joy, especially when in a season of adversity. There is wisdom to engage these habits for more hope, not just at Christmas, but all year-long.
Questions to ask yourself:
Have I allowed difficult circumstance to inhibit my clarity of “confident expectation” in a situation?
What is one way I can engage one of the 4 Habits for Hope, this Christmas?
Is there a way I can extend hope to someone else around me out of the abundance I have this season?