by Nissi Guiao
Ben Courson is a roaring wildfire fueled by a deep love for Jesus. He’s found purpose in rioting normalcy as an “optimisfit” for Kingdom’s sake; his passion has proven to be a contagious flame consistently igniting hungry souls, especially within the next generation. He leads with his life in reckless abandon—his courageous surrender to the call that’s been on his life from the very beginning. As a result of his loud obedience, God continues to provide open doors to the wildest of opportunities. Aside from being a host of a global TV and national radio program, Ben recently released his new book Optimisfits: Igniting a Fierce Rebellion Against Hopelessness in March of this year.
“Right now, depression is one of the top-ten leading causes of death,” says Ben Courson (founder and leader of Hope Generation and author of Optimisfits: Igniting a Fierce Rebellion Against Hopelessness). “People commit suicide once every forty seconds. There are 123 suicides per day in the United States. We consume, as Americans, more pills due to anxiety and depression than the rest of the world combined by three times over. This gave me a passion to go share hope (that God gave me a couple years ago). That’s how Hope Generation really started.”
The Hope Generation movement genuinely exploded from Ben’s personal experiences. “When [he] turned 18, [he] fell into a really, really deep depression—chronic, heavy depression.” He had just stepped into a Teaching Pastor role at his father’s mega church and was having fun in his new position when a switch unapologetically flipped within him. He shares, “I thought I was on the way to living my dream. And I had an amazing platform that my dad so graciously provided for me. I felt God’s gifts and callings on my life, but I didn’t feel like I was meeting the goals that I really wanted to accomplish.”
These feelings multiplied, and left Ben divided from his true self. Desperately wanting his life to mean something, he eventually found himself entangled in the wrong kind of thinking. He struggled in this mental space of severe depression “from 18 years old to a decade after that.” What essentially broke him free “was a verse that carried [him] through [that] darkest time. Psalm 37:4, which says ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart.’” He explains, “It was this idea that God wanted to turn my reality into a ‘dream-ality.’ That, the suffering that I was going through—yes, they were nightmares—but I also had dreams. And I would conquer my nightmares because of my dreams. . .[they] carried me through the time of depression.”
Hope in a New Way
Truth in the Word lit the path for Ben to begin dreaming again. It made a way for his great escape. And it wasn’t long after before “God caused [his] dreams to come true.” Miraculously, “that’s when I really started to find my hope in a new way,” he states. “It was really a God thing. He just opened up all these crazy doors. So, it was when those dreams started happening that I felt like Joseph, called out of the dungeon and into the palace. I was so stoked and also humbled. Like, deeply humbled and honored simultaneously that I got to see these dreams come true. That was big in overcoming depression for me.”
Since God brought Ben back to life, activated his dormant dreams and set him free, a newfound passion set ablaze in his heart to spread this message of hope that he intensely got to experience for himself. Things for him didn’t take flight until God saw that he was ready, however. With humility he shares, “It’s such a blessing because I did this thing called the 10,000 hour role where you have to practice a craft for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 4 years. I [spent those hours] speaking, reading, writing and [learning] the art of communication in 5 years. It was a constant training ground in preparation and waiting for opportunity to roll up. God showed me through this quote, ‘We shouldn’t wait for opportunity to roll up, we need to roll up our sleeves because you can’t have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic.’ You know, faith can move mountains, but don’t be surprised if God hands you a shovel. A lot of my years were just looking forward to what was going to happen.”
Ben talks about having these very specific dreams. Dreams and visions started coming true right before his eyes following his season of preparation. Patience and diligence grew the good seed planted in him, which at the proper time yielded harvest of plenty opportunity. With zero striving, a couple scouts and a publisher reached out to him at different points, asking him to be part of a TV/Radio show and to write his own book. And right now, Ben teaches about 10 times a week. Seeing “a movement of young people who are going from literal despair, depression, suicidal predispositions to a lifestyle of profound, sacred optimism in Jesus,” he excitedly shares is “Holy happiness.”
Ben wholeheartedly believes, especially today, that God wants to do something new, something fresh. “My heart,” he says, “is that we would see this unification of this next generation rising up into a powerful place in regards to what God wants to do in our future. I’m more concerned with where we’re going than where we came from. In Isaiah, God said ‘I want to do a new thing.’” The rich yet simple “now-for-this-day” message that effortlessly spills from Ben’s heart coupled with his relevant/engaging communication style is the foundation of his ever-growing following of “Optimisfits.”
God’s umbrella of protection and blessing covers Ben with each step he takes in risking for the true gospel to be shared with the masses. He carries such wisdom and doesn’t shy away from teaching in a different light than most have been used to hearing the Good News. He explains, “The fact of the matter is, fun is fundamental. Fun is not a message that we move on from, the more mature we get. It’s actually a message we move deeper into the wiser we become. Because Jesus said, ‘If you want to enter my Kingdom, you must become as a child.’
One of the things this generation, I think, is discovering is really chewing ‘the cut.’ That’s what it means to meditate deeper on Scripture, really chewing the meat (strong doctrine). It’s actually becoming more child-like. It’s realizing in maturity, hope is not something you graduate from. So, that idea of hope, joy and fun—I want to deconstruct those words so they’re not just like unicorns shooting rainbows out of their eyes, rainbow sandwiches, pegasus steaks, raining jelly beans and skittles—all super fluffy, like airy-fairy, happy-clappy, wishy-washy pie-in-the-sky. I want to show people that these realities are actually very deep. Those are the realities I want our generation to run into, and that’s what our generation’s hungry for.”
A Healing Hope
“Now what’s next for me,” Ben openly shares, “is going deeper into the dreams I’m already experiencing. So, ‘further up, further in,’ as Aslan would say in Narnia. Romans 15:13, it’s actually a verse that I feel like is the mantra [God] would speak to our generation and to me personally, ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.’ So, I believe that hope has the final word. That pain makes us stronger, tears make us braver, heartbreak makes us wiser so we can make our path for a better future. That our God is Jehovah Rapha—He heals. He turns our scars into stars. He doesn’t just say ‘Hear My words,’ He says, ‘Touch My wounds.’ You never see Jesus giving someone sickness to teach them a lesson. He’s never like striking people down. He’s healing people, and I believe God wants to heal our generation.
Hope Never Dies
Yes, sociological research and data shows us that we’re the most depressed generation on record, but I believe that’s all going to change. I believe that we’re going to see a spiritual awakening to the reality of the eternality import, of hope. That hope never dies. Hope has the last word. And I truly believe that our break-down is actually God’s break-through in our lives. There is always reason to hope. I just tell people, ‘Everything’s going to be okay in the end. So if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. But it’s okay if you’re not okay. It’s just not okay if you stay that way.’ For me, I’ve been through a lot of stuff. My brother went to heaven a couple [months] ago. . .and my sister also went to heaven when she was a teenager. They passed away, and I went through 10 years of chronic depression and major heartbreak that wrecked me emotionally for a long time. We just go through stuff in life that’s really hard, but God has healed my heart. He’s given me hope, so I believe His message for our generation (I want to speak this message as a resounding echo chamber) is—there is always hope, as our Lord is the God of hope.”