Have you ever stifled your hopes to avoid disappointment? Me too.
A lifetime of being a Chicago Cubs fan has taught me not to get my hopes up. When I was a kid I watched or listened to every game possible, even hiding my transistor radio under my pillow after bed time to listen to night games. I knew the the standings, the Cubs lineup, their batting averages, and I was hopeful. And I was disappointed.
I grew up, and the Cubs lost their appeal, and it was just as well because “wait ’till next year” got a little tiresome. This year, however, I am daring to hope.
Baseball standings don’t affect my life terribly much, but there are more important outcomes over which I, my friends and family have learned to dampen hope. For example, I’ve heard several people who were looking for work say, before a promising interview, “I’m not getting my hopes up.” It’s understandable, because it is so very disappointing if the job doesn’t work out.
Life has a way of numbing hope.
At some point, probably several points, in every life a great hope will result in deep disappointment. My tendency is to squash hope and therefore diminish my disappointment, but what I’m really stifling is joy, possibilities, and honestly owning God given desires.
I confronted my hope hiding habit about ten years ago when I was facing a cancer diagnosis. Surgery and radiation treatment were not open for discussion, but it wasn’t clear whether or not I would need chemotherapy. Having done some research and hearing other people’s experiences, I really did not want to undergo chemotherapy. I prayed. A lot. And then I prayed some more.
My doctor offered a test that would indicate whether chemotherapy would be helpful with my specific type of cancer. A low test result would mean I could safely do without nausea, general misery, and hair loss. Oh, how I wanted a low number!
Would I allow myself to hope?
Believe it or not, I had exactly that internal conversation. If I invested in hope, I risked terrible disappointment. Could I handle it? On the other hand, if I didn’t hope, if I assumed that I would not get the result that I desired, then I wouldn’t be quite as disappointed. Or was I just playing games? Disappointment would not be cheated, I finally realized, whether I hoped or not.
I decided to allow myself to hope boldly, and it was a good choice.
Why not hope? What is the point of shielding myself from disappointment? My emotions were intense in those days, and I decided to experience hope to the fullest and, if necessary, disappointment. No amount of hope hiding would change the reality that I was living.
The test did not yield a low number, and yes, I was deeply disappointed. I endured chemotherapy, and the day that my husband shaved off the little remaining hair on my head was the low point. As advertised, chemotherapy was no fun. But I had owned my desire and unashamedly made my hope known. That was all I could do. The outcome was up to God, and I trusted Him.
For some reason, and he promised that it was a good reason, God determined that I needed the whole cancer experience.
Hope that the Cubs will win a World Series, for a job, or for particular results of a medical test are all hopes that may or may not be realized. Yet, as I learned years ago, I want to own my hope. If I am disappointed, then I’ll own that too.
I can live with confident faith in God’s oversight, even when the Cubs are awful and when chemotherapy is a reality, because he assures me that there is one hope that will never disappoint me. His Son, Jesus Christ, made confident hope possible. In him I have hope of everlasting life, of a glorious inheritance, and of incomparably great power.
My hopes have not and will not all be met in this world, but I will hope anyway. Ultimately, this world is not all there is, and in Christ I have unshakable hope of an eternal future with no more disappointments, no more tears, and no more death.
Hope in Jesus Christ will never fail.
Have you hidden hope? Were you spared joy or disappointment? I’d love to hear stories of your hopes; fulfilled or unfulfilled.
“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:5