This post was written by guest blogger Ashley Alden.
A note from Ashley: Have you ever got your hopes up only to have them cruelly dashed to pieces? I have. I wrote this article six years ago after God taught me a valuable lesson about hope. At the time I was single with zero marriage prospects in my future. This is one of the (many!) lessons God taught me during that stage of my life. And I’m happy to report that I have now been happily married for four years to the man of my dreams. We have a child in heaven named Hope. When our tiny little Hope went to heaven (another story for another time), I revisited this article and heard my single, twenty-four-year-old self preach to my married thirty-year-old self. I hope it encourages you too, no matter where you are in your life.
I own a hope chest. Maybe you have one too. Or maybe yours exists in the daydreams of your imagination.
My dad made and gave me my hope chest when I graduated high school at eighteen. I had already been collecting “hope chest” items for a few months, but now I actually had a place to store them. Then the serious collecting began. Kitchen supplies, children’s toys and books, ornaments, decorations … all of those and more were placed in the chest with the hope that someday (please Lord, let it be soon!) those items would be used in a home of my own. A home filled with a husband’s love and children’s laughter.
However, as the years passed, the excitement to purchase or make things for the hope chest diminished as the hope of marriage decreased. I found myself irritated with the sight of the hope chest, as if somehow it had betrayed me. It seemed unjust and unfair to have that chest sit in my presence, mocking the hopes it held. Even worse came the day when I took several things in the chest not to my newlywed home but to my single-adult house. Now this, I thought, was the epitome of unfairness—the things in the chest were “sacred,” only to be used after my marriage. And here I was, opening the chest to move into a house by myself! I found myself despairing and angry.
That is until I looked at my hope chest from God’s point of view. Psalm 78:7 says, “So that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”
Psalm 42:11 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (emphasis added).
I asked myself, Where is my hope? Scripture asks the child of God to put his or her hope not in things (i.e. marriage, children, career), but in the Lord God Himself. Why? Because He alone can satisfy the longings of the soul! Only He can fill the aching void in every human being.
What does it mean to “hope in God”? At the risk of sounding simplistic, it is to place your life and dreams completely in the hands of God. It is to say that nothing or no one is more important in your life than God Himself. It is to lay all dreams, “hopes,” and ambitions at His feet and know that He, the Sovereign One, has a good plan for me.
To my surprise, I discovered I had placed my hopes in the hope chest instead of in God’s loving hands where they belonged. Is it wrong to hope for marriage, a home, and children? No! Those are God-given desires. It is wrong to place your entire hope and future in those things and miss the amazing blessing of intimately knowing the God Who gave you the dreams. A hope placed only in things or dreams is a misplaced hope—it brings you neither contentment nor joy. Hopes stored in a hope chest will grow old and stale and yield the fruit of bitterness as years of unfulfilled hopes drag on. But hope placed in God?
Hope placed in God yields “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Pet. 3:4). Hope placed in God yields to His will and finds that His will is the sweetest calling on earth. Hope placed in God yields a joy and contentment that leaves the world scratching its head in puzzlement. Hope placed in God knows His heartbeat and knows Him in an intimate way that would otherwise be impossible. People will disappoint, dreams will fail, but God will never change!
Another important part of placing your hope in God instead of in earthly hopes and dreams is gratitude. A girl or woman who has placed her hopes in earthly things will become discontented with God’s plan for her life and will begin to believe the lie that God has let her down because things have not gone according to “plan.” Instead, it is better to look at the marvelous things that God has given rather than the things that He has seemingly “withheld.” God has not only saved me by His grace, but He is keeping me by grace and helping me to become more like Him! He has given me many earthly blessings, even though there are unfulfilled hopes. A heart that hopes in God is a grateful heart! By God’s grace, I have unpacked those hopes and dreams from the hope chest and placed them in the hands of my Almighty God. That is absolutely liberating! Do I still struggle? Yes. Will I continue to struggle? Probably. But by God’s grace my hope is in God instead of in my dreams.
After I unpacked several hope chest items and took them to my single-adult home, I discovered the unique joy of using those things to bless others through hospitality. I learned to hold my hopes (and my hope chest items) with an open hand. I learned the joy of blessing others through hospitality and mentoring.
It is my prayer that you can sing with the songwriter, “My hope is in the Lord who gave Himself for me, and paid the price of all my sin at Calvary!”
What are you tempted to put your hope in instead of God?