Getting a Handle on the Hope Crisis

Lori Wildenberg

A youth pastor shared with me how one of his students told her mom she planned to take her life. According to the pastor, the mother, in an attempt to call her daughter’s bluff, drove her child to the store to get the things needed to accomplish the goal.

Her daughter completed her plan while her mom was at work.

This is a horrific story. Sadly, there are many other tragic stories like this. According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people. In some states, like my state of Colorado, suicide takes first place.

Untreated depression is the most common reason for suicide. Some experts say mental health struggles with anxiety and depression in children are the new normal. As parents, pastors, and mental health professionals we cannot accept this. We must arm our kids with more than resiliency; our kids need hope and hope for a future.

My daughter wrestled with depression during her senior year of college. Her sadness was so overwhelming she attempted to take her life. Thankfully, God spared her. But not everyone has the same outcome.

The battle of the mind is literally life and death. Yet God can use us on the battlefield. This fight is one we must win.

The good news is there are approaches we can implement that may prevent anxiety or depression. There are also ways we can help our kids during their struggles to overcome their despair.

Here are four ways we can foster hope:

H Help: When we give and receive help from each other, we build hope and remove the shame of the struggle and the embarrassment of asking for help. After all, we are created to need one another.
O Out-of-the-Box Perspective: To look at life through the lens of gratitude alters the problem perspective. Thankfulness practiced creates a hope-filled attitude. However, caution must be exercised here. It is unwise to toss out a platitude to another who is struggling. When someone is hurting it is not helpful to say, “Things could be worse.” Or “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” The out-of-the-box perspective must be personally embraced.
P Prayer: When we bring our concerns to the Lord, knowing that God is with us shifts our mindset from helpless to hopeful. We cannot manage all life throws at us, but God can, and we can trust Him with our hard times.
E Expect the Unexpected: Kids think life should go smoothly. They observe their peers’ social media posts displaying the appearance of happy lives, filled with adventure and success.

Realism is needed. Life is full of happy, sad, scary, and aggravating times. Our kids need to be ready to live a full life, a life filled with unexpected times.

In John 16:33 Jesus tells it like it is: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV). Jesus brings hope to a world where we will experience trouble.

We cannot accept depression and anxiety as the new normal. There are many ways God can use us when our kids experience trouble. With God, we can help our kids fight this battle and be overcomers—giving them the source of true hope for their future.

Lori Wildenberg, award-winning author of six parenting books, is a national speaker and a licensed parent-family educator. She is passionate about helping parents help their kids. Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation offers over 120 ways to increase hope and resiliency.

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