Five Enemies of Hope: How to Overcome Hopelessness

The Bible offers real hope for our lives now—and forever! But we face formidable foes. Here are five enemies of hope and strategies for combating them.

What causes hopelessness?

If you are watching world events, you know the state of the world today can look hopeless. Our individual lives can be overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness too.

But there is a God, and He truly loves us and offers us real hope. And it’s not just a fuzzy feeling, but a tangible tool for Christian growth. (Read more about this Christian hope in the articles “Hope in Christ” and “Our Future Hope.”)

Without God, there is no hope. But with Him we have a solid hope that can serve as “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19).

Defeating the enemies of hope

The Bible gives us some practical advice about how to renew our hope and grow in hope. Let’s consider five dangers to hope that Christians can face and how, with God’s help, we can defeat them. Here’s how to overcome hopelessness.

1. Don’t focus on the negative.

Many scriptures warn about the dangers of grumbling and complaining (1 Corinthians 10:10; Jude 1:16). Complaining and focusing on the negative can become a downward spiral, causing us to forget the blessings in our lives and attract more negativism from those around us.

Those who are affected by our negativity might choose to avoid us, undermining our support structure. And those who are willing to hang around us might be people who are also complainers and pessimists. Instead of building each other up, we can get into a cycle of tearing each other down.

The antidote to this hope-destroyer is discussed in Philippians 4. In verses 6-7 the apostle Paul encourages us to “let [our] requests be made known to God” with an attitude of thanksgiving. In response, God will give His peace that “surpasses all understanding.”

Then in verse 8 Paul tells us to focus on positive and praiseworthy things. When we meditate on things that are true, lovely and of good report, we are training our minds to think like God thinks.

A few verses later, Paul also gives additional countermeasures to protect us from negativity: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (verses 11-13).

Following Paul’s instructions and example will help us reverse a negative mind-set and grow in hope.

2. Don’t focus on people.

If we look to political leaders, business leaders, educational leaders—even friends and family—as the ones we pin our hopes on, we will be disappointed.

God gives us a powerful contrast in Jeremiah 17. “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD’” (verse 5). The next verse explains that those who trust in man are like plants trying to grow in parched desert lands.

God knows the human heart, and it is deceitful and “desperately wicked” (verse 9). We humans are not able to solve our own problems.

On the other hand, “blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (verses 7-8).

So we must not give top priority to or get caught up in any human-devised solution to our problems. These will disappoint and sap our hope. We must trust in the God who can truly fix things instead.

3. Stay close to God.

God warns that we can “drift away” and “neglect” the hope of the great salvation God offers (Hebrews 2:1, 3). This drift and neglect can start with the cares of this life, the constant distractions that steal time away from our regular contact with God. What comes up that cuts into our time for prayer and Bible study?

Then there is the danger of a general weariness with doing good, as we can sometimes feel burned-out and unappreciated. These and other excuses can cause us to weaken our attachment to the true vine and lead to hopelessness.

Jesus gave us a powerful warning and a solution to prevent slipping away from God in John 15: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (verse 5). The following verse describes the terrible results of not being connected to God.

We must stay attached to the vine. We must stay in constant contact with God.

4. Don’t allow guilt to cut us off from the Source of our hope—our Father and our Savior.

The Bible gives Christians the perfect antidote to the poison of guilt: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). (Learn more about repentance in the article “How to Repent.”)

Repentance is not just a one-time thing. We must continue to strive to avoid sin, but also to recognize when we do sin, and then to humbly repent.

 God’s mercy and forgiveness can help us overcome hopelessness and renew our hope.

5. Seek God’s strength to endure trials.

This last enemy we will look at is a big one. When we go through challenges and difficulties, they can sap our strength, our resilience and our hope. We can feel that God is not hearing or answering our prayers.

The book of Job clearly portrays a man going through severe trials and wondering why God will not answer His prayers.

In his anguish Job cried out, “He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone; my hope He has uprooted like a tree” (Job 19:10).

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”Later in this chapter, however, we see that though Job saw no hope in his current situation, he still retained a glimmer of the future hope of God’s plan. In verses 25-27 Job said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

In the end, Job realized that God does hear and He does care. He will do the most important thing for us: redeem us from the death penalty we have earned for our own sins! He always has our eternal best interests in mind.

God does hear us. And He answers.

There are different answers. Sometimes we may discover (by Bible study or by wise counsel) that our prayer was asked amiss—not according to God’s will.

But there are many things that are God’s will that don’t receive an immediate yes. God wants us to prosper and be in health, to have an abundant life, to be healed. But still He answers in different ways:

  • Yes.
  • Yes, but not yet.
  • No, but I have something better in store for you.

Seemingly unanswered prayers are not proof we lack faith. Instead, they are faith-building exercises—part of the tough basic training we must go through now to prepare us to be eternal, powerful kings helping in the Kingdom of God. It is preparation to be transformed into the complete image and likeness of God—to be children of God!

Looking for the church behind Life, Hope & Truth? See our “Who We Are” page.

Not worthy to be compared

The apostle Paul recorded the following passage to encourage us in our times of trial:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. …

“We also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. …

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:18, 23-25, 28).

We encourage you to read all of Romans 8 to more fully understand how God’s Spirit helps us see beyond the present troubles into the glorious future God has lovingly prepared for us.

And we must consider this: If God immediately granted all that we asked, we would not experience the trials that produce the beautiful, golden character of God in us.

The apostle Peter wrote about this in 1 Peter 1:6-9. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation [second coming] of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.

“Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

Even our darkest moments are just a launching pad for the wonderful potential God has for us.

What a wonderful God we serve! He loves us and gives us a sure hope. He teaches us how to overcome hopelessness and increase hope. This hope does not disappoint. This hope can be an anchor for our souls. This hope can motivate and inspire us.

We need God’s help to defeat the five enemies of hope discussed above and others that seek to knock us off the path of Christian conversion. Study more about renewing hope and reviving hope and how to defeat the enemies in the article “Put on the Armor of God.”

May God give you the help and hope you need—and may the fulfillment of that hope come soon!

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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