Recently I took my four-year-old granddaughter to a new-to-us playground and had a fantastic time. She was absolutely enchanted with all the play equipment and cried when we had to leave. The next day I decided to take her back and as we were driving, out of the blue she started telling me why she wouldn’t be able to play there again. Basically she told me that “they” had probably taken the whole thing down so she couldn’t play there.
At first I thought it was just pessimistic thinking and I tried to cheer her up. After all, I was driving her TO that very playground and I was pretty sure that nobody had plans to disassemble it any time soon.
She continued to insist that the playground would be gone.
Somebody took it apart in the night and she could never play there again, she said.
It was right about then I realized what she was doing: she was insulating herself against disappointment. She was afraid to hope.
My little one wanted to enjoy that park so much that she was scared to look forward to it. She was preparing to have the rug jerked out from under herself. I felt my heart break a little for this baby who already felt the need to protect herself from hurt.
Now, in fairness, we all have to deal with disappointment, and I don’t believe my grandgirl has had any more disappointment than other kids her age.
But I sure have caught myself in the same line of thinking. Afraid to hope for the best. Scared to believe that God has anything good for me. Thinking that if something seems too good to be true then it probably is.
I’ve been a settler most of my life. Not the kind that explores new territory, but the kind that “settles” for less than the best. “Good enough” has usually been my “best”. I don’t think I’ve done myself any favors with that attitude.
I don’t set my sights very high because somewhere down deep inside I don’t feel like I deserve anything better than “good enough”.
I don’t dare to hope for more because what if I don’t get it? Who wants to set themselves up for that kind of disappointment?
Ultimately I lay that failure to hope squarely at the feet of my shaky faith.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:11
I don’t dare to hope because sometimes I have trouble believing that God is good, and that He is on my side. I try to pretend it’s humility but it’s really a weak confidence in myself and in Him.
If I can believe Him then it’s safe to hope in Him because even if things don’t go the way I hoped, He will be there to help me pick up the pieces. One of my favorite passages in scripture is in Daniel, when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are brought before the King to answer for their refusal to worship the golden statue. Right before they are thrown into the fiery furnace, they lay it all out:
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18
Paraphrase by Kim: We know that He can, but we accept that He may not save us for reasons of His own that we cannot understand. Either way, no thanks. We will not worship your man-made god.
That is faith, friends.
We know that He can, but we accept that He might choose not to. (This truth is especially wrenching when I think about my history of miscarriage and infertility.)
In the end, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were indeed thrown into the furnace, but just as they predicted God delivered them and the fire did not touch them.
He can be trusted. He has proven Himself over and over, even though He doesn’t have to.
Even when the situation seems impossible, He can see the ending.
I don’t have to be afraid to put my hope in a God who can protect three men in a fiery furnace. And that same God is for me and has good things planned for me. Why is that so hard to believe?
Hope feels like a dare to me. Hope is standing on the end of a diving board not knowing if the pool below is full of water to catch me, or an empty hole promising only a hard fall.
The truth is that either way He will be there to catch me.
Emily Dickinson said:
I don’t pretend to understand all of it, but it sounds like hope is hard to squelch. I can pretend I don’t care and expect the worst, yet hope can still be quietly singing the tune without the words.
My sweet girl was thrilled to see that the playground was still there, just as she left it the day before. We’ve been back since then and she has never again mentioned the possibility that it would be gone.
So maybe it takes realizing how my hopes have been fulfilled over and over to keep hoping even during those times they’re not.
And just a little bit of faith.