Hopes and Desires…
To lose hope is a tragic event. Losing hope goes much deeper than disappointment. It is to despair. As hope is linked to despair; desire is linked to disappointment. To look at hope and desire simply as differing in degree is insufficient. They differ in origin and object. Desires (or wishes) are things we want to happen, outcomes we prefer. If our desires do not come to pass, we are disappointed and perhaps frustrated and maybe even angry. Hope, on the other hand, is linked to our sense of identity and being. It is when we misplace our hope in things that should be desires we run the danger of landing in despair.
We place our hope in something or someone. It goes far beyond what we want or desire to happen. Our sense of well-being is tied to the outcome. If our hope is placed in the outcome or in individuals who may provide us with the outcome we “hope” for, we can easily despair when that hope is crushed.
In our popular culture we often use hope in a casual sense to equal desire. An example of this is when someone says, “I hope my favorite team wins the championship.” or “I hope we have a good time at the lake this weekend.” It is highly doubtful that despair will follow a disappointing season or a spoiled weekend. What is really being expressed is a desire.
This trivial use of the word hope leads to emotional confusion when serious life problems present. Consider facing a diagnoses of a terminal or debilitating illness. In what will hope be placed. Will it be placed in the wisdom and abilities of the doctors, the power of medication, the skill of a surgeon? What will happen when they disappoint? If they cannot cure the problem or they cannot even prolong your life?
The question must be asked, “in what do we place our hope?” Do we place it in what we expect, want or desire God or others to do? In other words, do we place it in the outcome or do we place our hope in God? The answer may not be as clear or easy as it seems.
Many other difficult life events such as a failed marriage or relationship, failed career or economic hardship involve the same principle of misplaced hope/desire.
When desires for tangible outcomes are elevated to hopes, a devastating crushing of that hope may follow. It is healthy to desire to find a cure or receive a healing, the restoration of a relationship, economic relief; but if our hope is placed in such things this will likely lead to despair when these things are left unfulfilled. Anger toward the doctors, drug companies, our spouse, government or financial institutions will follow their inability to find a solution. Anger towards God will follow the failure of the doctors and our perceived failure of God to cure us either through the doctors or through His divine intervention.
Those who hold to a faith in Christ are no less prone to this misplaced hope then others. Often God is looked to for what He provided or what we want Him to provide. Trust is place in His actions more thin in Him.
Christians are quick to proclaim, “all things work for the good…” without accepting the reality of that proclamation. (Note: this is usually proclaimed about another persons tragic situation and not their own.) First, the setting for this passage ( Romans 8 ) is prayer. Second, the reader will find the “good” that God will work all things for by reading further, that we may be conformed to the image of His Son.
When we truly place our hope in the good and unchanging God, when we trust that he really does have our best interest in mind, no matter what the outcome, we can find new levels of peace and joy in the midst of the tragedy we face. Hope placed in the proper object does not prevent us from experiencing the sting or even the agony of tragedy. It does allow us to experience a very tangible sense of well-being despite the situation.
It is natural and even healthy to be upset, angry and disappointed when our desired outcomes are not fulfilled. This is part of the grief process, part of how we as humans deal with tragedy. Mourning is a part of dealing with loss.
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope differed makes the heart sick, but when desire comes it is a tree of life.” When our hope is placed in the wrong object, this can often be the outcome. When our hope is securely placed in God, His goodness we can weather the disappointments, even severe disappointments, when they come our way. When our desires are fulfilled we can rejoice appropriately.
When our desires, wants and requests are not fulfilled to our satisfaction, our hope in he who is infinitely wise and compassionate will remain in tack—even in the mists of our grief. In this way we will be able to process our grief and move ahead (in time) and profit in the most important way—in our souls.