Hopes behind worries

In a brief interruption to the interrogation process we have been discussing I want to take a look at hope.

I say interruption, but it is more of an interjection to inform our questioning.

This morning’s offering from New Morning Mercies this morning started off by saying:

“Every human being places his hope in something, and every human being asks that hope to deliver something. Where have you placed your hope?”
New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp – entry for 6th June

As people “hardwired for hope” we assess the world and find it wanting. We look around and know that things could be better.

A thought: we tend to think of a world without hope as a place of despair – but would it be more accurate to say that a truly hopeless world is the actually a place of perfection?

Of course as well as being hard-wired for hope we are also fallen. We are so blinded and fooled by sin that both what we put our hope in and then what we expect that hope to achieve are totally flawed.

Observing that there is a problem we panic and flail around for something, anything, in which to hope. We then burden the hapless object of our hope with the huge job of mending the brokenness, soothing the disappointment and generally making things ‘better’.

No wonder we worry! We live expecting things to be better, but our understanding of ‘better’ is darkened. We struggle through using inadequate tools (objects of hope) to fix the wrong problem!

So how does all this help my Brain Receptionist?

Like this morning – I woke up and opening my eyes was like opening the shop door on the first morning of the January sales. (Cast your mind back a few years before there were sales all the time..!) Only instead of shoppers looking for a bargain there were worries flooding in all demanding attention at once.

Meet the worries:

There is more to do today than I can fit in. I am in a post-holiday low patch and my worry defences are weakened, due to the routine changes and unpacking mess. Relationships are important, but messy. There will be opportunities to disciple my children; help my husband; love God’s people and just live wisely in the world I will inhabit today. What will I do with those opportunities? Will I take them or leave them? ‘Do’ them well and diligently or lazily? Will I miss them or see and act on them? Will I resent them or be thankful for them? I want to sort everything out and then do the relationships – but life doesn’t work that way.

The danger at this stage is for these and other worries to get stuck on a sub-conscious loop, playing again and again. Each replay taking them further and further from being one-touch worries. Enter the Brain Receptionist and her security team.

At this point the wisest thing to do is just to call security, empty the building and lock the doors. Don’t catch any eyes or engage the worry-crowd in any way! If you can’t do it in one touch, don’t do it at all! You’ll find that the genuine issues will stick around and the froth will soon give up.

Now enjoy the stillness! Take a deep breath and make an accurate assessment of the situation. Ask yourself:

  1. What is the real brokenness I am seeing here?
  2. In what should I place my hope to relieve this brokenness?
  3. What can I expect this hope to deliver?

The really great thing is that the big problem is always the same. Our big problem is that the loudest cry in my heart isn’t: Hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done.

That the general cry in my household and the world I live in today will not be: Hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done.

What I need today is for my heavenly Father’s name to be hallowed, for his Kingdom to come and his will be done. And so the object of my hope is that God will be God lovingly working in my life today, giving me today’s bread and all that I need to be his child today.

This is a robust hope that will not let me down, it will always live up to my expectations. Will everything be sorted? No! Will the to-do lists, the washing baskets or the kitchen sink magically empty themselves? No! BUT I will see the real ‘bad guys’ in my day and be less troubled by the stunt doubles. My hope will be well-placed, and able to deliver what I expect of it. My definition of a good day will shift, and along with that my ability to receive my days thankfully.

Sounds good to me!

But let’s rewind to the clamouring worry-crowd and the way my unmanned brain generally ‘assesses’ things.

The problem: I am not in control of my life today. Things are not how I want them to be. I should be perfect and today will be a constant reminder that I am not. My life should be easy and today will not be easy. My life should be ordered and tidy and today will not be ordered and tidy. If I could just have unlimited time on my own I might be able to sort everything out and feel well and do a good job – but I can’t do that.

With this assessment of the problem my objects of hope become:

  • Doing better.
  • Being better: more efficient and clever, finding more patience and wisdom and love from somewhere.
  • Better children: a sudden erasing of sin and a realisation that my logic and wisdom might be worth listening to, that perhaps I do love them and want the best for them.
  • God making things easier.
  • Times of escape.
  • Getting that table clear, or those suitcases in the loft.

The expectation placed on these hopes: It will be better – by which I essentially mean easier – today.

Daily Result: It isn’t all better today, worry and disappointment and anger. Far from being a one-touch worry – it grows and spawns and speculates and clamours menacingly.

Not such a tempting prospect.

And so to assist my Brain Receptionist and my Brain Security Guard, I am going to install….drum-roll…… a hope detector!

I’m thinking along the lines of those things you walk through in airport security areas that beep when you forget to take off your belt!

Before worries can gain a voice they need to be checked for false objects of hope and false expectations of what they can deliver. If they set the beeper off they need to be turned away or taken to one side to have their perspectives re-orientated!

Paul Tripp gives a great description of a foundational life hope: “basic meaning and purpose, motivation to continue, a sense of well-being, and that knowledge that you’ve hooked yourself to what life is really all about.”

We give so much time and energy to tiny little hopes, we set so much store by them. What we want to be sorted is so much smaller than what is really going on, and so what we hope for is too. Many of our little hopes are fine, as far as they go, and others need to be chucked right out – but NONE should take the place of the massive, certain, foundational life hope that is ours in Jesus.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine and ten thousand beside. 

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
  Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
    “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me! 

© 1923. Ren. 1951 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188

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