While browsing a copy of Web MD magazine, I noticed an article on Hope Therapy. It was based on a clinical trial with 32 people who met two hours a week for eight weeks. The doctoral students who conducted the program measured some improvement in the participants self-esteem and sense of meaning, while anxiety and some depression symptoms diminished. The “components of hope” that were taught included the need for goals, plans to reach them, and positive self-talk. Compared to psychotherapy which is backward and inward focused, hope therapy seeks to build on strengths and is forward looking. 
Considering how pervasive mental and emotional problems are these days, it’s not surprising that hope’s value is being rediscovered. Mental health data states that 19.1 million adults in America suffer from anxiety disorders and 18.8 million suffer from depressive disorders. Ancient wisdom noticed that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” (Prov. 13:12a).
Unfortunately, secular therapy programs are limited due to their neglect of the spiritual resources that God designed for us to live by. Positive self-talk, goals, and plans can help motivate and encourage people, but these techniques are limited by the frailties of life apart from fellowship with God.
British scholar, G. K. Chesterton, observed that real hope has empowerment to thrive when times are tough: “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all … As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.” The born-again believer in Christ can avail himself/herself of supernatural resources that give a substantial basis for hope. Note the reference in Proverbs again: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”
What is the basis for the Christian’s living hope?
1. The believer’s hope rests on the promises of God’s Word: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4) “…in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. (Titus 1:2).
2. The believer’s hope is based on the bodily resurrection of Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
3. The believer’s hope rests on the ministry of the Holy Spirit: “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (Gal. 5:5). “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
4. The believer’s hope springs from the indwelling life of Christ: “… the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved [from the self-life] by His [indwelling] life” (Rom. 5:10).
How tragic that the lost person has no valid hope for life after death (Eph. 2:12). So God has provided salvation through the Lord Jesus to all who confess their need and receive Him by faith as Lord and Savior (Rom. 5:1; 10:9-13). The invitation rings out today: “… And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
As you abide in Christ, true hope is like a “helmet of salvation” and an anchor for your soul (Heb. 6:19; 1 Thess. 5:8). God’s provision for the future gives you security and stability!
Our Daily Bread gave this stirring example of the importance of hope. “During the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century, German pastor Paul Gerhardt and his family were forced to flee from their home. One night as they stayed in a small village inn, homeless and afraid, his wife broke down and cried openly in despair. To comfort her, Gerhardt reminded her of Scripture promises about God’s provision and keeping. Then, going out to the garden to be alone, he too broke down and wept. He felt he had come to his darkest hour. Soon afterward, Gerhardt felt the burden lifted and sensed anew the Lord’s presence. Taking his pen, he wrote a hymn that has brought comfort to many.
‘Give to the winds thy fears; hope, and be undismayed;
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head.
Through waves and clouds and storms He gently clears the way.
Wait thou His time, so shall the night soon end in joyous day.’ “
As you enter the uncertainties of the new year, take refuge in your grace-based relationship with God in Christ. By faith, set your mind on God’s faithfulness and promises.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thess. 2:16, 17).
 Kelly Colihan, Does ‘Hope Therapy’ Help Depression? WebMD Health News. Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD Aug. 18, 2008. online at www.webmd.com
 G.K. Chesterton, [quoted in] Signs of the Times, April 1993, p. 6.
 Our Daily Bread. 7/7/1992. www.rbc.org
Copyright 2008 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Please credit www.GraceNotebook.com. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.