What do you know about the power of vicarious hope?

A new year often brings new hopes and dreams for the future. For some, it is difficult to hope. Past trauma colors present reality making a different future seem impossible. But hope is real.

The power of hope

Have you ever felt hopeless? You have an overwhelming sense of being trapped with no way forward. Life is a long dark tunnel and just as you see a glimmer of light it turns out to be an oncoming freight train. Sometimes this hopelessness causes despair that can spill over into those around you. Psychologists call this vicarious trauma. While especially true of caretakers, anyone can absorb the stress and suffering of others causing them to experience the same feelings. This may explain why your friends pull away from you to protect their emotional health.

May I encourage you to do the opposite? If you know someone who is overwhelmed by life’s circumstances don’t leave them alone in their suffering.  Help them rediscover hope.

Studies demonstrate that as we absorb the suffering of others, we also experience the joy and hope of others. There is scientific evidence for vicarious hope and vicarious gratitude.  This is good news. Surround yourself with people of hope and you will experience more hope. For centuries we have seen the power of positive role models and narratives of persevering power that give us hope.

But where do you find people of hope?

Contrary to portrayals in the media, I believe people of hope are present everywhere. And may I make a controversial suggestion? Seek out Christians and a good church.

Throughout history, people have abused the name of Jesus to achieve power and position. They have inflicted trauma, but they have also brought great healing.  At our best, we are agents of hope because of the hope that lives within us (1 Pet. 3:15). This living hope offers encouragement and a firm and secure anchor for our soul (Heb. 6:18-19).

Amid the trauma of plagues, people of hope brought healing. Christians established the first hospitals. As those in power sought to abuse others by hoarding knowledge, Christians brought education to the masses and established the first universities. While some churches have been slow to invite people of hope to engage in meaningful justice work, that is changing as more churches join Administer Justice in providing hope to people caught in challenging legal circumstances.

Every week across America churches open their doors to provide hope to neighbors in need. Neighbors like Sally wrote, “What an incredible blessing to have a caring organization, sharing God’s love, hope, and the assistance of knowledgeable lawyers who can help those in need! Thank you so very much!”

That’s spreading vicarious hope and gratitude.

The perspective of hope

Hope is a choice. I believe true hope is found in Jesus and reflected through those who love him and love others. Each day is a new day, and you have the choice to look down at your circumstances and be overwhelmed without hope or to look up to a God who is bigger than your circumstances and look around for people who care.

Choose Jesus. Simply tell him you know you can’t do this on your own. You are too weak. Express how sorry you are for the things you’ve done wrong in your life. Ask him to forgive you and give you the strength to turn from what you know is wrong. Thank him that he died on the cross for you so you could be forgiven and set free. His forgiveness is freely given as he sends his spirit into your life to comfort and guide you. Receive that gift. Receive his spirit.  Allow him to wrap you in his arms and experience his vicarious hope for you.

If you’d like to explore this hope further, consider joining an Alpha Course. This course helps you explore tough questions of suffering, gain a better understanding of God and his love for you, and make new friends of hope. You may also benefit from messages of hope found on my new podcast, Restore Justice. Keep persevering.