Somewhere in my childhood, I learned the lesson that hope is not safe. What imprinted that maxim into my young psyche, I’m not sure. Maybe hoping for something that never materialized: a special doll from the Sears Wish Book. Or a smile of approval from my preoccupied father. My disillusioned heart carried that conviction into adulthood like the chicken pox scar under my eye—barely noticeable but indelible.
I considered “hope” one of the most dangerous words in the English language. Hope is a set-up for heartbreak. Where hope abides, disappointment is idling in the driveway with a U-Haul. Who needs that kind of pain? So I said “nope” to hope and lowered my expectations to passive pessimism, preferring the occasional pleasant surprise to the disappointment of dashed dreams.
I understood intellectually that the Lord is good and loving, but my guarded heart was crippled. By refusing to hope, I was unable to fully trust in Him, afraid to let go for fear of letdown.
Friend, has something robbed your hope? Maybe, like Hannah (1 Samuel 1:3), you long to have a child and every month your hope crumbles a little bit more. Maybe you hope your marriage will change. Your health will improve. You’ll find another job after quarantine. After a while, you might be ready to jettison hope altogether—or at least imprison your expectations behind the bars of your heart, locking away their relentless ache.
In the days of Zechariah, the Jews had begun to return from their exile in Babylon and rebuild Jerusalem. After years of struggle with adversaries on all sides, some had given up hope that they could ever fortify and reestablish the city. Yet God gave them a promise that lifted their eyes beyond their hopeless circumstances to the source of sure and unshakable hope: the coming Messiah. “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey… Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.” (Zechariah 9:9,12, ESV)
As He did for his people, Israel, God heard my unspoken longings and fulfilled them perfectly through the love of Jesus Christ, setting me free to hope, to risk, to dream God-sized dreams.
When fear and disappointment imprison our hope, Jesus invites us to come to Him, our stronghold and place of safety. Whatever we’re afraid to reach for, whatever we’ve lost, He promises to restore double the blessings as we rely on Him.
Dear God, thank You that all my hopes are safe with You. Help me trust You with my deepest longings and remember that You desire to bless immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine.
© Leslie A. McLeod 2021