“Tiffany, why are you afraid to hope?” The remainders of strawberry spinach salad on square white plates spanned the expanse across the café table. I sat there convicted, and embarrassed to make audible thoughts that should be kept silent.
I had shared with a close friend that it looked like God was answering my prayer, and inviting me to a new and challenging opportunity. I had waited ten years for God to fulfill this desire. However instead of exuding excitement, my friend wisely perceived that I was experiencing doubts and a few hesitations.
And you may be like me—a hope-struggler. After years of patient waiting, when your friend asks why you aren’t more excited to see your hope actualized, with a blank look you simply murmur, “I’m afraid.”
Afraid of what? Afraid that the lies which have stolen your hope might actually be true.
Lie #1. I am not worthy of this gift/person/answered prayer/opportunity, etc.
Actually, this one is true. But you cannot live here. You must finish the story and internalize the complete truth: “I am not worthy of this gift, but God is his grace has chosen to give it to me.” As the recipient of a gift, you did not do anything to deserve this gift or the favor of the gift-giver. The grace that you have been given is a result of God’s good pleasure and nothing less. Thus there is no room for shame or guilt, only gratitude.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. - James 1:17
Lie #2. God is not good.
A God that is not good does not give good gifts. Thankfully, you and I do not worship a capricious, malevolent god who finds cruel pleasure in offering hope to us only to jerk it away and watch us sink into despair. No, we serve a good God who is trustworthy and true. He has revealed himself to us and his character is consistent.
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! - Matthew 7:11
Lie #3. I can protect my heart.
At the root of this self-deception is another false belief: “If I don’t hope, I won’t be disappointed.” Yet in an effort to self-insulate, you end up playing God. You fall into the trap of believing that you can control life’s outcomes and thus avoid pain and heartache by never daring to hope. Instead of altogether denying yourself hope or veering to the other extreme and depositing your total hope in the fulfillment of a specific dream, cultivate hope in God. He alone will not disappoint.
And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. - Psalm 39:7
Lie #4. I am not supposed to enjoy life.
“As a Christian, I’m to take up my cross and that means denying myself worldly pleasures.” While admirable, some of us mistake Christ’s teaching as a call to a life of austerity devoid of all enjoyment, pleasure, and happiness. We think that by somehow restraining from things that bring us joy that we are “suffering” for Christ and growing in righteousness. We feel guilty when we venture to hope for something for fear of it actually coming true, and gasp—actually experiencing delight. Contrary to this lie, Paul prays that the Roman believers experience lives characterized by the joy, peace, and hope of God. They are to delight in God and to enjoy his good gifts.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13
From one hope-struggler to another, my prayer is that you overcome your fear, dare to hope and trust God with the outcome. He just might surprise you.