Get Your Hopes Up (Too) High

by Lester Young

Today, I’d like to tackle an issue that many, many people on this earth (Christians and non-Christians alike) are forced to deal with on a continuing, daily, long-term basis – and by “tackle” I mean to punch it dead in the throat. From an early age we begin to be subtly indoctrinated into this sinister world-view, the seed of which likely being planted the first time we hear Mom and Dad utter the one little word that forever alters our relationship with and perception of them: “No!” Later on, as infancy grows into adolescence, large numbers of children are stunted in their spiritual development under the constant bombardment of even stronger forms of negative ‘enforcement’ and reinforcement. Finally, by the time we’re all grown up, there probably isn’t one single person on this whole planet who hasn’t heard at least once in his- or her life this tiresomely familiar rug-snatcher from some old adult, “Now baby, don’t get your hopes up; I just don’t want you to be disappointed.”

Now please don’t get me wrong; work with me here. I’m a big proponent of disciplining our children. We certainly need to teach them that there are acceptable as well as unacceptable forms of behavior, and that they can’t necessarily automatically have everything they want at the exact moment they want it, and that there are boundaries in life which simply must be respected (Proverbs 22:15). That’s only right and proper, and absolutely not what I’m talking about here (Proverbs 22:6). What I am referring to are the general negative vibes we adults all-too-often throw up as an invisible hindrance in front of children, unintentional – and even unbeknownst – though they may be. And what’s worse, they’re typically wrapped in the well-meaning cloak of “guidance,” “personal experience,” or “Lemme tell you what the world’s taught me over the years, kid”.

Again, gently directing our young ones is a major part of our responsibility to them. However, we must learn that short-circuiting ‘hope’ – anyone’s hope, regardless of age – is something we should never, ever do. But in order to truly understand how and why we shouldn’t, we need to know what hope actually is. In both the Old (Hebrew tiqvah) and New Testaments (Greek elpis) of the Bible, the word translated ‘hope’ is actually defined as “expectation” or “to expect”. That’s a little different from our western-English idea of hope, which can be expressed like this: “Well, I want it to happen, I’d like for it to happen… maybe it’ll happen” – in other words, it carries no more real weight than just wishing.

Conversely, true Bible ‘hope’ is a powerful thing. It’s an expectancy that’s actually born from and based on something tangible: the unfailing Word of God. And that’s precisely why it’s so potent: it has the absolute right to believe that God’s promise will come to pass, because He can’t lie in the first place (Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 55:11; Romans 4:18-21; Hebrews 6:18). In fact, Hope is one of the three most powerful and enduring substances there is (1 Corinthians 13:13). God used it, Faith and Love to create everything that exists! (Galatians 5:6; Hebrews 11:1)

So God’s promise to us – i.e., His Word, and therefore He Himself – is the Source of hope, the Source of any and all real expectation of good that we can have; because any and all good things come from Him (John 1:1; Romans 15:13; James 1:17). He gives us every good thing abundantly for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). In fact, every promise of God (and there are around 7,000 of them in the Bible) is a resounding “Yes; so be it!” to any person in Christ Jesus who’ll dare to take it and hang onto it (2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 6:11-15). And if that’s God’s attitude about His promises, who are we to go around telling anyone not to get their hopes up over them?

Of course, I realize that most people say those things with the best of intentions: it’s usually an attempt to keep someone they actually care about from experiencing the pain of a disappointment, loss or failure. But if you dig down far enough below the surface, you’ll invariably hit upon some form of fear to be the core stimulus of that sentiment – and fear is the polar opposite of Faith.

What to do, then? Okay, granted: If your kid has aspirations of becoming the biggest drug dealer that North America has ever seen, it might not be a bad idea to try to steer him away from that hope. But otherwise, do your best to instill a “Yes, you can and will succeed” attitude whenever you get the opportunity. You know what I mean. My real point – and this is even more important than the positive support – is that your hopes and those of anyone you’re in a position to influence be built upon and rooted in the promises of God.

So if you or your child or anyone you’re talking to has God’s Word on something – regardless of how ridiculous or impossible it may sound to anyone else – then go ahead and grow a pair and “get your hopes up” as high as you can, and then push them a few clicks higher just for good measure. Don’t worry: God is more than up to the task of handling any expectation you can throw at Him, and if you’ll stay with Him on His Word you’ll never have to concern yourself again about being disappointed from “too-high hopes” (Ephesians 3:20; Romans 5:5 and Hebrews 6:17-20 New Living Translation). Because in the Lord, there really isn’t any such thing! (Luke 1:37)


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4 Comments to “Get Your Hopes Up (Too) High”

  1. Once again, you have hit upon a tender spot that we all need to face. My son starts college this fall – his major, Theatre Arts. I’m 100% behind him, and am encouraging him BUT, oh the fear. I feel as Christians we don’t encourage our young people toward the arts and we so desperately need more artists in this world; CS Lewis, HR Rookmaaker, to name just a few of the prophets who warned us against turning away from the arts have been our teachers in this endeavor. However when I’m alone with God, don’t think I don’t wail for mercy – I’m afraid, very afraid. He’s 18, he is going to a small Christian College but they have already warned him – his vocation will take talent AND the knowledge that he is going into a mission field. To say to him now, don’t be disappointed, or maybe you are setting your hopes too high…nope, but there are a few dark moments for old Mom here when I wish I had, I freely confess that right now. Thank-you beloved teacher for always being there and being a steady voice.

    • Hi there, Sandra.
      Let me respond by first asking you a couple of questions. First, did you bring up your son and tell him about Jesus and try to do right in front of him – in other words, did you raise him in the Lord as best you knew how? (I think you probably did.) Next, did you discuss with him colleges and what he wanted to do with his life (i.e., as his mother you helped him and guided him, but you didn’t make his decision for him)? (Again, in my opinion, I’d say that’s precisely how you handled it.) Now if it’s something he really wants to do and sees himself doing, there’s a reason for that. Psalm 37:4 tells us that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He’ll give us the desires of our heart. That doesn’t just mean He’ll bring them to pass in our lives; it also means that He will insert those desires into our hearts in the first place — so that He can bring them to pass. So if it’s a Godly desire like the one you described for your son, I feel very secure in declaring that God put it there — and He didn’t put it there to be failed at. Our Father doesn’t do that. He put it there to be lived out. You can pin your hope – your expectation! (Hebrews 6:18-20) – on it because “it is written” in Psalm 37:4. And this is just a ‘first step’ in his life — a step the Lord is orchestrating (Psalm 37:23), so there’s no need to fear.
      And speaking of which, I have to address the fear (I have no choice in the matter). You are a dear friend of mine, and I cannot just say nothing. Sandra, notice I didn’t say “I have to address ‘your’ fear”; I said ‘the’ fear. Because that fear is not ‘yours’; it doesn’t belong to you, and it has no right being anywhere near you. But you have to stand against it — you must, you must, you must! It’ll stay as long as you let it. I’m sure you’ve noticed that basically from start to finish in the Bible, God is always telling (actually, commanding) His people, “Fear not!” Why? Because fear is a spirit (2 Timothy 1:7), and its source is the devil. And because fear is directly opposed to faith, you can’t be in both of them at the same time. In fact, fear is simply faith that’s going in the opposite (wrong) direction: faith is your belief and confidence in God’s desire and ability to deliver you and do you good; fear of a snake (or a hurricane or anything else) is your belief and confidence in its desire or ability to hurt you.
      But it’s easy to just tell someone “Don’t be afraid”; the real issue is, “‘How’ do you not be afraid?” Trying to do it with willpower or self-help books or just ‘controlling and living with a certain amount of it’ are not the ways to go, regardless of what the world says. Because it’s a spirit, it must be dealt with using spiritual tools. Those ‘fearful’ thoughts and the hair standing up on the back of your neck are simply the physical symptoms of that spirit of faith. The Word of God tells us you get rid of fear by getting firm hold of the Truth that God loves you just as much as He love’s Jesus – you, Little Friend, personally and specifically! (John 17:22-23)
      1 John 4:17 says that perfect love completely flushes fear out of us (that ‘perfect’ doesn’t mean we have to be totally perfect in our behavior. Not at all. It means that we’re confident in how much He loves us personally: that we can come to Him at any time, even after we’ve screwed up, and know that He’ll receive us just the same – like any loving Dad would when we come and crawl up into His lap. So what I want to tell you most of all, Sandra, is to meditate on that verse (John 17:23), until it hits you – really hits you – that you’re loved beyond all reason. You’re your Father’s baby gurl, and you always will be 🙂 Stay on that verse until it becomes real to you; eventually you’ll start noticing that fear – and every other fear – is cracking and melting away.
      And one final thing: keep in mind that your Covenant with the Lord includes your children (Psalm 103:17; Isaiah 49:25, 54:13). So your son’s actually ‘double-covered’: God’s love and respect for him because he himself is in the Lord Jesus, and simply because he’s your son and God loves you so very much (it’s the same way He treated Abraham and his children – of whom we also are [Gen 22:18; Galatians 3:29]).
      So don’t worry: resist that fear, because you and your son are both firmly in God’s hand and nothing can rip you out of there (John 15:10; Romans 8:38).
      Hmm, wow; I’m sorry I got so long-winded… I really didn’t plan that. As always, Sandra, thanks very much for your comments and for valuing my words. You bless me.



      • I’ve been trying desperately to get back to you – Thank-you! Really Thank-you for all the time and care you spent on this reply. You’ve given me a lot to study, especially on the concept and nature of fear. That brought me up short. I can’t tell you enough – you are such a wonderful teacher and I’m so very grateful to God for you – sincerely Lester. God bless and keep you – and keep you doing what you are doing. We need you out here 🙂 -Sandy

      • Thank you, Sandy, it’s my great honor… and I’m not going anywhere 🙂

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