dealing with a devastating loss mindset and goals Mar 09, 2022
Person crying


 The Harvard University Hope Experiment:

During the 1950s, Dr. Curt Richter from Harvard University performed a series of experiments using water, buckets, and both domesticated and wild rats which resulted in a surprising discovery within the field of psychology.

In the first experiment, Richter placed his test subjects into large buckets half-filled with water with even those rats which were considered above average swimmers, giving up and dying within a few short minutes, on average 15 minutes.

In the second experiment, Richter pulled each rat out just as it was about to give up due to exhaustion and let them rest for a few moments. Upon inserting the rats back into the bucket of water, Richter found that the rats continued to struggle to survive for up to 60 hours!!!!

Why? As the rats now believed that if they continued to push forward with enough effort, past their limit, eventually they would be rescued once again. Richter recorded in his notes, “after elimination of hopelessness, the rats do not die”

What an incredible insight!!!

I have been talking to so many people after Covid, and the common word I hear is hopelessness.


Hopelessness is a potent emotion that contributes to a low mood and can consequently affect how a person perceives themselves. It is characterized by a lack of optimism, hope, and positivity. Often, when a person experiences hopelessness, they lack aspirations or ambition for the future.  Most likely they may feel that their circumstances are unlikely to improve.

Experiencing feelings of hopelessness can lead an individual to lose interest in the things that would usually be a source of joy or meaning for them. When experiencing hopelessness, individuals lack inspiration.  Often, they face other challenging emotions such as powerlessness, isolation, oppression, or helplessness.

When experiencing hopelessness, an individual holds a negative outlook of their future. They believe that their current mental state is irreversible and will sustain. For example, those experiencing hopelessness are likely to make statements like the following:

  • “Life will never get any better.”
  • “There is no future for me,”
  • “No one can help me improve my situation.”
  • “I want to give up.”
  • “I can never experience happiness or joy again.”

We all have our own definitions of hope and hopelessness, but the emotions we experience are real and valid.

Feeling hopeless may be a natural, universal response to personal and world events that impact our lives. It can also be a symptom of depression, adjustment disorders, and other mental health conditions.

Some experts propose there’s more than one form of hopelessness. And Learning which type you’re living with may help someone face the challenge and overcome those feelings.

Psychology professors Anthony Scioli and Henry B. Biller published “Hope in the Age of Anxiety” in 2009. In their book they suggest there are nine pure forms of Hopelessness.

  1. Alienation – You feel different from other people and don’t fit in. 
  2. Forsakenness – You have experienced rejection or abandonment and feel uncared for.
  3. Lack of Inspiration – You lack mental or creative stimulation.
  4. Powerlessness – You feel that your actions don’t impact your own life or the lives of others.
  5. Oppression – You feel that you are not treated as an equal to others.
  6. Limitedness – You feel that you lack the skills or abilities needed to achieve your goals.
  7. Doom – You feel condemned to a negative outcome in life.
  8. Captivity – You often feel like a captive if you have been imprisoned at some point in your life or subjected to an abusive relationship where someone prevented you from executing your own free will.
  9. Helplessness – You feel unable to act or change your circumstances.


Hopelessness can be a symptom of many other psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, or eating disorders. Still, it can also appear during challenging times of our life.

Suppose an individual is discouraged by external events in their life, such as losing a job or experiencing a breakup. In that case, the adverse and distressing side effects may present themselves as hopelessness.

Hopelessness is not always synonymous with mental health, but regardless of the cause, it can have a devastating impact on an individual’s life. Not only does it sap the joy from every day, but the sense of despair makes people less likely to seek help.


There are many techniques touted by “experts” to handle or overcome hopelessness, but I will address it from a Christian perspective, what does the Bible say about it.

Remember, the Bible emphasizes faith, hope, and love as our three essentials.

Each is necessary for a vibrant faith, they are different from each other but are related. They are like three sisters.

  • Hope says “I know things will work out, I just don’t know how or when!”
  • Faith says, “Things have already worked out” (even before they do in actual experience).
  • Love says, “Even if they don’t work out, even if I don’t understand what’s going on, nothing can separate me from the affection God has for me!”

Let’s look at hope. Hope securely built upon the “better promises” of God has fueled the fire of faith that has produced every major spiritual breakthrough down through the ages. It is so essential. Hope is defined as the confident expectation of good and is based on believing the promises of God. There is no consistent strong faith apart from having a living hope in our hearts, for faith is “the substance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1)!

All of us have the capacity to be filled with hope and it is much closer to us than we often recognize:

When we were born again, we were translated into a brand-new kingdom — into a “hope.”

Romans 8:24-25

24 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? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.


Hope is like a spiritual bubble or sphere. Abiding in that sphere creates attitudes of confidence. It becomes the inward spiritual environment that fortifies our patience and sustains the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Because Paul the apostle lived in that hope atmosphere, he boldly proclaimed,

Romans 8:28

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. 

Hopelessness is a delusion, the consequence of an inaccurate belief system. For many in our generation, even Christians it is an enormous enemy. But it is an imposter that is the result of believing a lie. Jesus said,

John 8:32

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. — 

The Truth is Transformational, it has the power to set you free! Lies have the opposite detrimental effect. How do you know that your perception of reality is inaccurate? How do you know that what you believe is not true? You are not free! It can be just that simple.

The apostle Paul identified the relationship between what you believe and how it affects you. He wrote,

Romans 15:13

“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.

Accurate belief produces joy and peace and an abundance of hope. Acknowledging the truth is not sufficient to bring freedom; the truth you believe is the only truth that liberates you. In some cases, you may have your facts straight but still, be bound because your understanding is inaccurate. Jesus warned,

Luke 8:18

“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”

If you have drawn inaccurate conclusions, you “heard wrong.” Allow the Holy Spirit to interpret reality for you.

Who in the Bible suffers from Hopelessness?

  1. Do you remember Jeremiah the weeping prophet?

Jeremiah, one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, walked close to the Lord and was one of His spokesmen in his generation to the nation of Israel. Yet the great prophet was prone to periods of hopelessness and depression.

  Jeremiah 15:18 details his complaint against the Lord. In despair he questioned,

“Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream, as waters that fail?”

Notice that Jeremiah accused the Lord of being unreliable, like waters that fail, meaning “waters that cannot be trusted.” God’s response is illuminated in the Amplified Translation:

Jeremiah 15:19-21

Therefore thus says the Lord to Jeremiah: “If you return and give up this mistaken tone of distrust and despair, then I will give you again a settled place of quiet and safety, and you will be My minister; and if you separate the precious from the vile cleansing your own heart from unworthy and unwarranted suspicions concerning God’s faithfulness, you shall be My mouthpiece… for I am with you to save and deliver you, says the Lord. And I will deliver you out of the hands of the wicked, and I will redeem you out of the palms of the terrible and ruthless tyrants. —

Jeremiah was affected by a common delusion that the Lord clearly identified as a mistaken tone of distrust and despair. His solution was simple and profound: give it up!.. stop believing the lie, reconsider your conclusions and change your mind.

Eventually, Jeremiah changed his mind about what the Lord thought. Fifteen chapters later Jeremiah discovered the redemptive thoughts of the Lord revealed in this prophetic statement:

Jeremiah 29:10-11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  

  1. King David

David the psalmist declared:

Psalm 27:13

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

David knew what destroys despair: having an accurate understanding that God is good, and a deep conviction that he would experience that goodness while he lived.

Our human tendency is to allow how we feel to affect what we believe. True humility refuses to believe what we think or feel when it contradicts the truth and the revealed nature of God. Having a renewed mind is the key that brings this breakthrough.

What does God think of us? His thoughts toward us are thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give us a future and a hope. Hope is built into the gospel message. Though human hope may have died the day Jesus was crucified, transcendent unconquerable hope emerged from the tomb in the person of the resurrected man, Christ Jesus.

Robin McMillan said: The empty tomb of the risen Jesus makes this bold proclamation: there is no hopeless situation. Let that hope arise in your hearts right now. It is already there ready to spring into living faith!

Right now, after the lockdown due to Covid and the fear for the “deadly” disease, people losing jobs and loved ones, isolation, etc. what we desperately need to eliminate hopelessness is to give up our mistaken tones of distrust and despair and suspicions concerning God’s faithfulness. Don’t let hopelessness steal our joy!

We all need to identify the lies that we believe. Replace them with the truth and make despair disappear from our lives.

It is Biblical and we are instructed to renew our minds

Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Philippians 4:8

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Acknowledging the truth is not sufficient to bring freedom; the truth you believe is the only truth that liberates you.” What do you actually believe? Let’s give up our mistaken tones of distrust and despair and suspicions concerning God’s faithfulness.

Let’s not let hopelessness steal our joy.

 If you would like to know more about how to deal with hopelessness, I offer a FREE 45-minute Purpose-Inspired Living Breakthrough Session.

 Where I will go over what you are struggling with and what you would like to accomplish, and we'll see if you are a good fit for one of my coaching program. To book your free session, click this link now:  

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 I'm looking forward to hearing from you!