Some of the more inspirational inscriptions on people's lives:
- If you can dream it, you can do it.--Walt Disney
- You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down.--Charlie Chaplin
- Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.--Mother Teresa
- Carpe diem (seize the day)--Horace
- Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.--Helen Keller
- I can do all things through him who strengthens me.--Apostle Paul
- Don't worry, be happy.--Bobby McFerrin
When I was younger, my personal slogan was not quite so inspirational. Disturbing might be a more fitting adjective. You see, for much of my life, my motto was: If you always expect the worst, you'll never be disappointed.
Not exactly a phrase you want under your name in the school yearbook.
For me, having grown up in an alcoholic home where my main objective was to simply get through each day with some semblance of sanity, those words served as a banner of protection. They prevented me from being hurt even more. They guarded me from being let down even further. They insulated me from experiencing even deeper dejection.
My life's slogan, as cynical as it sounds, actually proved to be helpful to me as a child. It shielded me from greater hurt and frustration. But when, as a grownup, I defaulted to my childhood motto, I found that the words that once were strangely beneficial were now causing untold harm.
It took a lot of soul-searching to recognize it, but those ten words had sucked joy out of my life. They put a damper on my spirit. They drained me of hope.
My introspection led me to the discovery that when one always expects the worst it's impossible to truly enjoy life. We cannot relish the good when we're convinced that bad is lurking around the corner. We can't appreciate times of blessing when we've come to believe that we're cursed.
I came to the realization that my mantra was incompatible with the message of Scripture. The Bible speaks of a God in whom we can have great expectations. In His Word, we discover a Heavenly Father who wants His kids to not just expect joy, but the fullness of joy; not just peace, but peace that surpasses all comprehension; not just life, but the abundance of life.
The Greek word for abundance that Jesus used means, overflowing; considerably more than one could expect or anticipate. While believers are promised this kind of life, that is not to say that difficulties and heartaches won't come our way. But when we come to expect adversity, we will find that our expectation is often realized; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When we look for the bad in any and every situation we will find it. And we will miss out on the joy, peace, and abundance of life that God wants us to have.
I have found that waiting on God is far more preferable than waiting for the other shoe to drop. There are still times when my old way of thinking kicks in. That not only hurts me, it hurts the God who yearns for me to put my hope in Him at all times, in all situations.
In the book of Romans, Paul offers this prayer for me and believers of all generations: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13, NLT)
I now have a new life's motto: If you always expect the best, you will bring honor to God.