Rainbows and unicorns were conspicuously absent from my childhood. My morbid mantra was formed by the prevailing despair, dejection, and despondence that is sadly common in children growing up in dysfunctional environments.
Strange as it may seem, for kids growing up in troubled homes, following a caustic credo like mine can actually be beneficial. It can protect children from further heartbreak.
- If you tell yourself that Mom's depression will once again prevent your family from going on vacation, you can then be pleasantly surprised when she's feeling well enough to go.
- If you assume your dad will come home drunk and you'll have to miss the Father-Son Outing at church, it won't hurt as much when he stumbles into the house long after you were supposed to leave.
- If you convince yourself that you will have to watch the softball game at recess because neither team will want you to play it will seem strangely satisfying to hear, "I guess we'll take you."
One way to be sure your dreams won't be dashed is to simply not allow yourself to dream.
But while expecting the worst can, in actuality, help us as children, it does nothing but hurt us as adults. Continuing to go through life anticipating a never ending series of disappointments will not only prove devastating to our sense of self-worth, it has the potential to destroy our relationships, including our relationship with God.
A "what next?" mentality leads to cynicism and pessimism. It can make us sarcastic and distrusting. It fosters doubt and defeatism. These kinds of character traits can prove toxic to our relationship with God and others. The end result: a life of despair.
But despair has never been a part of God's plan for His children. Rather, He offers us the antidote to despair: hope. In the book of Jeremiah the Lord declares, For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (29:11)
Hope is more than just wishful thinking (e.g. I hope I'll be happy one day). It is ironclad confidence that God is who He says He is. Our Protector. Our Provider. Our Fortress. The Lifter of our Heads (Ps. 3:3).
Hope looks beyond our preconceived notions and holds firmly to the truth about God's character as presented in His Word:
- When we expect Him to reject, He accepts.
- When we expect Him to condemn, He commends.
- When we expect Him to blame, He blesses.
Hope is also confidence that we are who He says we are. His prized possessions. His beloved children. Heirs to His riches. His chosen ones.
God has great affection for us, particularly those of us who have known rejection. He wants to free us from despair because despair prevents us from having true intimacy with Him. He wants to remove the chip from our shoulders and replace it with Jesus' robes of righteousness.
Even when we expect the worst, God offers us His best. When we open ourselves to Him, He is willing and able to change our attitudes so that we can take in His gifts of love, grace, healing, and peace. That is power of hope.