Finding Hope in Unexpected Moments: Part 3

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
4 min readMay 9, 2024


By Jim Doyle

NOTE: This was written as a contribution to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s blog.

Jim Doyle

Neuroscience tells us that the brain influences our state of mind. People can experience a roller-coaster of emotions including doubt, fear and loss while navigating life circumstances. Faced with adversity, the hard-wired human instinct is to fight, flee or freeze. When seeing danger, prehistoric people could stand their ground armed with primitive weapons, flee to safety, or freeze in place. Today, saber tooth tigers might prowl our minds. In the darkness of our imagination, we might see ferocious and nasty creatures. With this scary vision, vividly imagined, we could become immobilized and frozen in place. But as human beings, we are blessed with free will to choose how we respond to what we see.

See also:

Finding Hope in Unexpected Moments

Finding Hope in Unexpected Moments, Once Again

Seeing hope and possibility in life

Hope is like a light switch. When on, life illuminates with optimism, possibility and joy. But when switched off, feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and darkness can fill our mind. Behavioral therapists recommend techniques such as practicing gratitude and being mindful with what grabs our attention throughout the day. On a recent gratitude walk (as I call them), I found myself thinking about both. I happened upon an engaging man named Bob. He was gracefully sketching a landscape scene. As I stopped to talk, his description of what he was seeing was not at all the same as mine. He used words like “complicated, intriguing, lots going on here.” He added, “I have scouted this location before and really wanted to paint it.” I found myself asking, “What am I missing here?” He jabbed at the canvas with his brush after mixing it in the messy palette. All I could see were brush strokes of color splashed across the easel. Bob could clearly see a landscape scene of delicate and complicated elements of nature.

Below is a photo of the scene we were both viewing. What do you see?

In this unexpected meeting, we both discovered common ground: two years apart in high school, each grew up within a block of the other’s church, knew the same people and loved glazed donuts from the local bakery. All this history, 50 years ago now became known in a chance meeting. He said, “small world.” Bob went on to say that he viewed his ability to paint as a gift. He believed others might find hope and be inspired by his work. For some people, what they see influences what they believe to be true. For others, they believe and hope in what they do not see.

Here is a picture of what Bob painted …

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Not the end of the story

Bob and I shook hands, and he kept painting, I continued walking as if I were in the painting. Following the path over the bridge and into the wooded background, my intuition was telling me there was hidden meaning in this unexpected moment. The idea that when we see an unexpected challenge, big or small, we can slow down and bypass the evolutionary fight/flight/freeze response by flipping the light switch of hope and possibility in our mind. This means having faith in what we hope for — uncertain of what we see — and embracing unexpected moments with the possibility of finding hope for life.

Jim Doyle is a public speaker and workshop facilitator and the author of Hope for Life: Being Your Best Self When You Need It Most, his insightful story of facing the heartbreak of losing a son to drug addiction and the healing process of living with hope and resilience. Jim’s faith helps him find joy and hope during the holiday season, even in the most unexpected moments.



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