By Lisa Huddleston
“At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad’” (Zeph. 1:12).
A couple of friends and I have been having an ongoing conversation about expectations. One friend feels that her expectations are often too high, and therefore she struggles with frequent feelings of disappointment. The other expresses an unwillingness to hold any expectations of seeing God move—again to avoid painful disappointment. Being the yoyo that I am, I tend to bounce back and forth between these two extremes—neither a soaring optimist nor a complete Doubting Thomas. Despite struggles with skepticism and even, at times, despair, I can’t help letting my hopes rise, because I know that God can do whatever He chooses to do whenever He chooses to do it. Therefore, all things are always possible all the time and that keeps me salivating over hope like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Will it happen this time? Will I see Him at work today? Is this the moment I’ve been waiting for? Like my big, brown Lab, Mary, I pant with anticipation and leave drops of drool in my wake. Try as I may to adopt a cool “whatever” attitude, I just can’t seem to give up on hope.
And why would I want to? Well, as my dear friends have addressed, it sometimes hurts to hope. To build up expectations that when dashed allow you to fall flat on your face. To look foolish when the plans you’ve made don’t seem to be coming true. To appear naïve in the smug face of sophistication as you hear the words “I told you so” and “God helps those who help themselves.” To risk your reputation by expressing the mustard seed hope that faith really can move mountains and that you really can rely on God’s timing and His plan. Hope can make you feel ridiculous—especially when it causes you to go against the common sense of the majority. Hope can be tough to handle.
Yet, without hope, without expecting God to move in our lives, what do we have? Only one weary day after another. No expectations. No purpose. No aspirations. Just one foot in front of the other—if you even bother to get off the couch. Yes, hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov. 13:12), but if our hope is in God it is assured. It is an “anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:19) and an essential part of our faith in Him (Heb. 11:1).
I’m not advocating radical foolishness and random steps off cliffs. No, God has much to tell us about wisdom and discretion, about counting the cost and discerning the spirits that lead us. But, I also know that He calls us to live our lives in active hope which is a good definition of faith. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16). Hope matters. It is an essential part of faith and a motivating factor in accomplishing the good works to which we have been called.
Are you hoping for something today? Is it from the One who is faithful to lead you without error? Stretch out your hand to take hold of it. Crane your neck to catch its glimpse. Take a risk, push through your fear of failure, and let hope lead you to higher heights. No longer lukewarm and complacent, but in hopeful reliance on the One who calls you forward. His hope is secure!