It’s a Jungle Out There: The Burden of Hopelessness

From Max Lucado’s book: Traveling Light

He restores my soul. — Psalm 23:3 NKJV

I wonder if you could imagine yourself in a jungle. A dense jungle. A dark jungle. Your friends convinced you it was time for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and here you are. You paid the fare. You crossed the ocean. You hired the guide and joined the group. And you ventured where you had never ventured before — into the thick, strange world of the jungle. 

Sound interesting? Let’s take it a step farther. Imagine that you are in the jungle, lost and alone. You paused to lace your boot, and when you looked up, no one was near. You took a chance and went to the right; now you’re wondering if the others went to the left. (Or did you go left and they go right?)

Whatever, you are alone. And you have been alone for, well, you don’t know how long it has been. Your watch was attached to your pack, and your pack is on the shoulder of the nice guy from New Jersey who volunteered to hold it while you tied your boots. You didn’t intend for him to walk off with it. But he did. And here you are, stuck in the middle of nowhere. 

You have a problem. First, you were not made for this place. Drop you in the center of avenues and buildings, and you could sniff your way home. But here in sky-blocking foliage? Here in trail-hiding thickets? You are out of your element. You weren’t made for this jungle. 

What’s worse, you aren’t equipped. You have no machete. No knife. No matches. No flares. No food.

You aren’t equipped, but now you are trapped — and you haven’t a clue how to get out. 

 Sound like fun to you? Me either. Before moving on, let’s pause and ask how you would feel. Given such circumstances, what emotions would surface? With what thoughts would you wrestle? 

Fear? Of course you would.

Anxiety? To say the least.

Anger? I could understand that. (You’d like to get your hands on those folks who convinced you to take this trip.) 

But most of all, what about hopelessness? No idea where to turn. No hunch what to do. Who could blame you for sitting on a log (better check for snakes first), burying your face in your hands, and thinking, I’ll never get out of here. You have no direction, no equipment, no hope.

Can you freeze frame that emotion for a moment? Can you sense, for just a second, how it feels to be out of your element? Out of solutions? Out of ideas and energy? Can you imagine, just for a moment, how it feels to be out of hope? 

 If you can, you can relate to many people in this world. 

For many people, life is — well, life is a jungle. Not a jungle of trees and beasts. Would that it were so simple. Would that our jungles could be cut with a machete or our adversaries trapped in a cage. But our jungles are comprised of the thicker thickets of failing health, broken hearts, and empty wallets. Our forests are framed with hospital walls and divorce courts. We don’t hear the screeching of birds or the roaring of lions, but we do hear the complaints of neighbors and the demands of bosses. Our predators are our creditors, and the brush that surrounds us is the rush that exhausts us. 

It’s a jungle out there. 

And for some, even for many, hope is in short supply. Hopelessness is an odd bag. Unlike the others, it isn’t full. It is empty, and its emptiness creates the burden. Unzip the top and examine all the pockets. Turn it upside down and shake it hard.

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  • The bag of hopelessness is painfully empty. 

 

Not a very pretty picture, is it? Let’s see if we can brighten it up. We’ve imagined the emotions of being lost; you think we can do the same with being rescued? What would it take to restore your hope? What would you need to reenergize your journey? 

Though the answers are abundant, three come quickly to mind. 

The first would be a person. Not just any person. You don’t need someone equally confused. You need someone who knows the way out. 

And from him you need some vision. You need someone to lift your spirits. You need someone to look you in the face and say, “This isn’t the end. Don’t give up. There is a better place than this. And I’ll lead you there.” 

And, perhaps most important, you need direction. If you have only a person but no renewed vision, all you have is company. If he has a vision but no direction, you have a dreamer for company. But if you have a person with direction — who can take you from this place to the right place — ah, then you have one who can restore your hope. 

Or, to use David’s words, “He restores my soul.” 

Our Shepherd majors in restoring hope to the soul. Whether you are a lamb lost on a craggy ledge or a city slicker alone in a deep jungle, everything changes when your rescuer appears. 

Your loneliness diminishes, because you have fellowship. Your despair decreases, because you have vision. Your confusion begins to lift, because you have direction. 

Please note: You haven’t left the jungle. 

The trees still eclipse the sky, and the thorns still cut the skin. Animals lurk and rodents scurry. The jungle is still a jungle. It hasn’t changed, but you have. You have changed because you have hope. And you have hope because you have met someone who can lead you out.

Part 2: He Restores My Soul

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