by Morris ChalfantYears ago a small town in Maine was destined to be submerged in a great reservoir for a hydro-electric plant. When the project was announced, the people were given many months to arrange their affairs and to relocate. During the time before the dam was built, an interesting thing happened. All improvements ceased! No painting was done. No repairs were made on the buildings, roads, and sidewalks. Day by day the whole town got shabbier and shabbier. A long time before the dam was built and the waters came, the town looked uncared-for—even though the people had not yet moved away. One citizen explained: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.” That town was cursed with hopelessness! To my mind the most profane word in the English language is not a four-letter word, but the word “hopelessness.” To say a person is hopeless, or a situation is hopeless, is a direct denial of the power of God. In Psalm 42:5, we read this powerful statement: “Hope thou in God.” No man can live long without hope. Psychiatrists have discovered no matter how deeply a person is depressed, no matter how despondent, if somehow they can inject a ray of hope in a person’s mind, he will begin to recover. A woman will find the courage to keep her family together in spite of a drinking husband, as long as she can see a spark of hope. A man can tolerate many faults of his wife, if he has hope in his heart. A salesman can live with many negative responses to his product, if he has hope. Hopelessness is a terrifying issue faced by many senior adults. The reasons may vary, but in the main these four areas are the basis for this stress: • Facing one’s own mortality: Many senior adults feel hopeless when they realize that most of their life span is behind them and there is no way to turn back the clock. Most of their unaccomplished goals will remain unaccomplished. It is simply too late. • Realization of diminished resources: Many seniors lose not only the physical strength to cope for themselves as they were long accustomed to do, but they also suffer weakened emotional stamina. It is a sad but common occurrence for a senior adult to confront a common-place problem only to find he cannot deal with the simple frustration of seeing it through. • Low self-esteem: Faced with such situations—time running out, weakened emotional stamina, and waning physical strength—many senior adults experience low self-esteem. Unable to do for themselves or others as they have in the past, they experience the feelings of uselessness, and worthlessness. • Pangs of self-pity: A typical by-product of low self-esteem is self-pity, which feeds on the negatives encountered by the senior adult as he attempts to go through his daily routine. What is the answer to this feeling of hopelessness? Personally, I have found motivation and direction from the simple “Prayer of Serenity”: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I cannot turn back the clock. I cannot change the fact that I am a senior adult. I must accept that fact graciously that I can no longer pursue some of my life-long dreams. But while putting aside former goals, I can set reasonable short-term goals that give me renewed self-confidence when I accomplish then. I cannot always do some of the things I once did. I can, however, swallow my pride and ask for help. My job now is to ask for assistance when I need it. Just because I am slowing down does not mean I am not worth as much. I can feel good about what I have done and what I have learned. Some days it’s easier to believe this than others, but I keep working at it. On days when it is harder to believe, I try to remember what I read on a kid’s T-shirt: “I know I am important, ‘cause my God don’t make no junk!” It is safe to say that there is no one who has never felt completely helpless in a situation that looked hopeless. To the question, “What do you do when you feel that way?” let me just say two things in response: • No situation is hopeless unless you frame it in the years of your own existence. Look at the cross. Frame it in the twenty-four hours of a single Friday and it looks hopeless. But set against the background of eternity, it becomes itself the sign of hope. • Remember that you are never helpless. I honestly believe that you are only really helpless when you are counting on your own strength alone. When you are ready to accept the help that is waiting to be given to you from sources that you perhaps least expect (but ultimately from God), help always comes. There is hope. Don’t let anyone—including yourself—tell you differently. God’s Word promises hope. Centuries ago Martin Luther said it well: “All which happens in the whole world happens through hope. No man would sow a grain of corn if he did not hope it would spring up and bring forth the ear. How much more are we helped on by hope in the way to eternal life.” God’s Word is as timely as it is timeless: “Hope thou in God” (Ps. 42:5). Morris Chalfant, of Kankakee, Illinois, continues a 60-year pulpit ministry and is currently serving as chaplain in a nursing home. He is also active as an evangelist in revival meetings. He has authored 15 books and numerous articles—several of which have appeared in Pulpit Helps.