Have you ever had someone tell you “don’t get your hopes up”? It’s the thing loved ones tell us when we are excited for something that they don’t think will happen. Maybe it is what our co-worker says when we are up for an influential promotion. Or what a teacher tells us when applying to a prestigious university. It’s even what our friends say when we are going to ask out that person that is way out of our league. Basically, it is what people tell you when the odds are against you. They say “don’t get your hopes up” because they know there is a risk for disappointment.
So, we should be thankful that people want to protect us. It is good to know that people care enough to watch out for our well being, but if we are walking with Christ in our lives, shouldn’t we have high hopes?
Maybe a well intentioned “don’t get your hopes up” really means “I don’t think that out come is likely, so prepare for the worst”. Not exactly the words we want to hear when we hope for that great new job, opportunity, experience, or whatever it may be. We all have things we hope for and many times we have to live with disappoint when it doesn’t come true, but I don’t think that means we should cushion our hopes so we can avoid disappointment.
THE SEINFELD EXAMPLE
It almost seems easier not to hope at all.
The other day I was watching Seinfeld. Jerry and George were sitting at a table and George was talking about his love life. It went like this…
George: I don’t want hope. Hope is killing me. My dream is to become hopeless. When you’re hopeless you don’t care. And when you don’t care, that indifference makes you attractive.
Jerry: So, hopelessness is the key?
George: It’s my only hope.
Comedic and yet insightful. What George is really saying is when he hopes, he cares. So, when we care we end up opening the doors of being hurt. When we don’t care we can breeze through life like no one’s business. We expect nothing out of life and offer nothing in return. It makes things easy when we have little or no expectations.
Is that what Christ’s wants of us, though? I can’t remember reading in the Bible a place where it commands us not to care and lower our expectations so life is easier to deal with, but I can think of many examples of where it says to have hope.
In Proverbs 13:12 it says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” So, waiting on those hopes can make us sick, but when those hopes become realized dreams we end up on Cloud 9. Yet we still lower our hopes to avoid that sickness in our hearts, but I think it is worth the risk to see our desires fulfilled.
PLAYING THE LOTTERY
Lets look at it this way.
A man buys a lottery ticket at the local 7 Eleven and he hopes he is going to win. He’s is so excited about it that he starts telling all of his friends and spending all of his money. He is so hopeful he buys a new car, big screen T.V., and a drum set, even though he doesn’t play. The next day he doesn’t win and cries himself to sleep.
Another man does the same thing, but he doesn’t have that much hope. He knows the odds of winning the lottery and knows it probably wont’ happen. So, he doesn’t tell anyone and just goes home to watch Family Guy reruns. He doesn’t win and it is no big deal.
Meanwhile, the first guy needs to pick himself off the ground and return all of that stuff he bought. He has to face his friends and admit he was an idiot. He has to deal with the disappointment of an unrealized hope.
Most would say the second man is better off. He didn’t get wrapped up into thinking he was going to win and avoided the consequences, but I’ll disagree and say the first man is better off because he has an opportunity to learn.
Sounds crazy doesn’t it, but doesn’t God have us grow in our difficult moments? Isn’t that how we become stronger Christians?
WHAT I READ IN THE BIBLE
In James 1:2-4 it says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
So, it raises the question, are we avoiding trials by lowering our hopes? Isn’t that the essence of not getting our hopes up? It is how we avoid being devastated when things don’t turn out the way we want? Yet, James makes it clear that those disappointing and hard times are there to make us more complete in Christ.
If that’s not enough, Romans 5:3-4 says “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Sounds a lot like what James was saying. On top of that, we are left with the thought that hope does not disappoint. How is that possible?
The man that bought the lottery ticket and thought he would win was very disappointed. He was crushed and humiliated, but according to scripture “hope does not disappoint”. The answer is simple, though. The man hoped for something that was not good for him and since we know God is good, we know that winning the lottery wasn’t good for this man.
HOPE IN CHRIST
Basically, the two men that bought lottery tickets have misdirected hope. They were simply hoping for money, but a person that puts their hope in God trusts him with that provision. Someone that puts their hope in the Lord is never disappointed because their hope is not tied to this world. This world will drift and fade away, but our ultimate hope is in God’s kingdom, where all our hopes and dream will come true.
So, the solution is easier than expected. Just put your hope in Christ. Psalms 39:17 says, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” As we eagerly look forward to our desires being fulfilled we need to remember that all our hopes need to be focused on God.
Remember that Romans 8:24-25 it says “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
There are no guarantees in this world because we can’t see into the future. If we could there would be no need to hope at all. We’ll never know which one of our worldly hopes will be realized, but when we wait with the hope of the Lord in our hearts, we know great things are coming even if we don’t know what they are or when they’ll happen. They’ll be hurts and disappointments along the way, but those struggles only last for short moments in comparison to God’s glory.
So, ask yourself right now, what are you hoping for? Have you prayed about it? Is your hope focused on God? If that’s the case then get your hopes up. Trust God with all your hopes and dreams and as long as your following him, good things will happen. Don’t be disappointed when they don’t come true, but be joyful in the fact that God is making you more perfect. If we keep our hopes small then we’ll only grow in small ways.
So, the next time you are up for a big promotion, applying to that prestigious school, or asking out the person of your dreams remember to keep your hopes up. Walk into that situation with Christ by your side and know there is no such thing as disappointment when he is with you and he is always with you.