On Saturday I’m having a party. We’re going to fell a tree and barbecue meat (if you’ve ever had a more manly birthday, please tell me about it). My parents have some huge leylandii that need taking down, and it has been a lifelong dream of mine to fell a mature tree with an axe, so it’s an ideal opportunity!
Despite looking forward to it (especially the bit where an enormous tree eventually topples with an immense crash), I catch myself feeling a bit worried. It’s always a little daunting putting on any kind of event for other people – Will it be boring? Will they have fun? Should I remove my shirt before making the final blow that will bring it smashing down? (That’s a joke).
It’s normal to worry about things in the future, and some of us can get really weighed down with anxiety – having little hope for anything to go well for us. For some reason, it’s easier to expect things to go badly, than well. This kind of ruins the enjoyment we can get from looking forward to things.
I’ve been learning something lately that is changing my life. It’s enabling me to be happier, and more peaceful than ever before. A couple of days ago I heard some wise words from musician Jenn Johnson, that sums it up pretty well. She said that ‘hope, is the joyful expectation of good’.
I’m beginning to grasp the idea that hope is not a vague wish that a thing will happen, like ‘I really hope it doesn’t rain for our BBQ on Saturday.’
Rather, to have hope is to have an ongoing, joy-filled expectancy that good things are always on the way; it is to understand that your existence as a human is supposed to be one characterised by great things happening to you, not bad.
This sense of anticipation may not be for anything specific – you may not know what you’re hopeful for. It’s more of an atmosphere, where although there might be ups and downs in your journey, the overall trajectory of you life is upwards.
Children are really good at hope; they have no trouble expecting good things – in fact they are continually looking for them on the horizon. ‘When are we going on holiday? Can we have an ice-cream?’
But as we age, we learn from disappointments that hope gets us into trouble. If I expect anything, I’ll only be let down. I’m not falling for that one again. We wanted life to go a certain way, but it didn’t, so we have come to the conclusion that this hoping thing doesn’t work. It’s clearly broken.
Instead of seeing good on our horizon, we have learnt to anticipate the opposite – failure, sickness, loneliness, financial trouble, relationship difficulties… Ever find yourself worrying about any of these, perhaps even before they happen?
We need childlike expectancy
This mindset may protect us from being let down too often, but it also prevents us from experiencing anything good. If we are constantly scanning the future for trouble, we end up living a joyless existence where nothing new or exciting is happening, and we put it down to the fact that life is simply not much good – just boring or painful.
However, the real reason is that we have stopped daring to hope, because of the risk of disappointment that comes with it.
If we want to be happy we need childlike hope. For some of us, this is a terrifying journey. It starts by learning to focus on the good things that have happened, not those that haven’t. By doing this, we create space in our life for good to increase.
We can’t control life, and therefore it’s not really surprising that things often don’t go the way we imagine them to. But the fact that life is unpredictable does not make it bad; it merely becomes bad when we become so offended that things aren’t going our way, that we shut our eyes to the good that has or is coming our way, and let it all float by.
If someone is in a relationship that goes wrong, and is let down by the other person, they might decide to never trust anyone again. For as long as they cling to this they won’t have any more fulfilling relationships, and will live a life without much joy.
It’s like this with everything else. If we refuse to be expectant of good things in life because of bad experiences, we will never be able to receive any. We sacrifice walking into new and exciting seasons in order to keep ourselves from getting hurt again.
On the other hand, by daring to believe that good things are on the way, we create an atmosphere of hope that makes enjoying life easy. I’m secure, I’m not afraid of next week or next year because I understand that although things I haven’t planned may happen – some of them difficult – there will always be an abundance of good to enjoy – if I’ll only dare look for it.
Living in hope is a choice, and not only empowers us to do great things, but it does the same for people around us. Hope-filled people are contagious – they deposit expectancy and freedom in others. They’re the ones we want to follow, be around, and be more like.
This way of living won’t let you down, because it attracts great opportunities, relationships and experiences like a magnet. Instead of worrying about things not turning out like you want, run into the unknown with carefree abandon, knowing there will be beauty to discover.
If you would like to share this with your friends, I’d appreciate it hugely! Thanks so much.