We’re less than a month into 2014, and that means New Year’s resolutions are upon us. Taking inventory of accomplishments and failures and setting a 365-day deadline, many folks promise to lose weight, to work more, to work less, to get out of debt, to quit smoking, to cut back on clutter, to be a better friend/parent/son/daughter/husband/wife.
If you’re not on the New Year’s plan, you might be on the life plan. Bachelor’s by 22. Married by 30. Kids by 35. See the world by 40. Change the world by 50. Retire to a comfortable home with an ample nest egg by 65. Or something like that.
We seek something better. Something more. And preferably on our schedules.
To an extent, we have to plan ahead in life. However, I think the fear that permeates our lives and fills us with anxiety and frustration is really a trust (i.e., faith) issue. We know we can’t control the outcomes of our carefully laid plans, and if we don’t trust God’s plans for us, we have replaced our hope in Christ with Earthly desires.
Desire is a longing for something that we may or may not attain. We can desire success (as we define it), security (as we define it), happiness (as we define it), a promotion, children, the end of world hunger, whatever. We can pray for those things. We can do what’s within our ability to make them a reality. And maybe it will happen. Maybe we’ll get what we desire. Maybe not.
Hope is the belief in a promise not yet fully realized. We have one hope: Christ. He has promised himself to us (1 Peter 1:3).
Even if we could control the future and ensure we get everything we desire, we would not be satisfied because only Christ can completely quench our thirst.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
— John 4:10-13
There’s nothing wrong with having goals and desires and trying our best to achieve them. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s all good, healthy, and worthy of our effort. However, desire can morph into a sort of pseudo-hope that expects, nay demands, fulfillment. If we refuse to be content unless more and better come to us on our terms, according to our schedules, what we should really expect is disappointment. We are not the remedy to what ails us, and more will never be enough.
Author Shauna Niequist has some ideas about “enough.” She has struggled with miscarriage and the inability to conceive. In her blog post and companion video on the topic, she contemplates the pain that has accompanied her unsustainable hope for a second child. Her seven-minute video is worth watching.
“I want to cultivate a deep sense of gratitude,” she says, “of groundedness, of enough, even while I’m longing for something more. The longing and the gratitude, both. I’m practicing believing that God knows more than I know, that he sees what I can’t, that he’s weaving a future I can’t even imagine from where I sit this morning.”
While I don’t know Niequist’s specific pain and dashed hopes, I know other kinds. We all do. As we live with the urgency of knowing time is not on our side and that it’s very likely we won’t get everything we want during our Earthly lives, we can rest in the true hope God has promised us.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
— Acts 2:26-28
What does resting in hope look like? Feel like? I wish I knew exactly. But I’m confident it doesn’t require that we numb ourselves. “The longing and the gratitude, both.” And I’d bet there’s more to it than biding our time until we (a) get what we want or (b) die. Our hope in Christ has already begun.
Without focusing on time, without setting arbitrary deadlines, we might see things differently. Maybe we’d see the bigger picture, the longer story. Maybe we’d see this:
Or perhaps we’d experience more fully what is happening all around us in every seemingly insignificant moment:
The resolutions, the goals, the deep, agonizing desires — they promise nothing, and they’ll always fall short of better and more. But Christ — he is our enough.