I knew when my daughter pulled her coat back to reveal the brand new stuffed dog peeking out of her pants pocket that this was not a good idea. But because I say “no” so often, I simply couldn’t bring myself to deny her this small pleasure of carrying her little fabric friend into the store with her. So, I mentioned the potential danger of it falling out while she walked, but didn’t press the notion. Patting her bulging pocket she assured me all would be well.
At bed time later that evening, my girl is franticly looking for her small treasured toy. In irritation at the mounting delay to the end of our day, I go out in the snow to double check the car, just in case her little toy is out there freezing alone in the dark. I glance inside the car quickly, eager to be back inside where it’s warm and get on with bed time.
The toy is nowhere.
I apologize and put her to bed, assuring her that we will find it–it will turn up, I say, with no real hope of this actually being true. (Cue the “I knew this was going to happen” track that plays in your head when you watch your kids do something foolish.) “Pray that God helps you find it.” I suggest. She asks me if I think it’s possible. I skirt her question by answering, “anything’s possible”. I didn’t think it was possible. I had no shred of hope.
I’m not usually so negative. It’s not my nature to be such a pessimist about things, but I knew she was going to lose that little dog. I wasn’t surprised at all when it turned up missing that night. I imagined some other child finding it in the aisle of the store and claiming it as their own. I imagined it tucked in the sheets of some other child’s bed. I imagined it in the parking lot smashed beneath snowy tires. I imagined everything except the toy actually turning up.
Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness.(Nehemiah 9:18)
My daughter woke up the next morning still forlorn over the loss of this $2 stuffed dog toy. “I hope we find it” she frowned. In attempts to sooth her hurting heart, I offered to drive back to the store and ask after the dog at their “lost and found”. Her eyes lit up–hope sparking afresh.”Say a prayer” I suggest. My lips betraying my mounting doubt. I offer my own prayer, which really, was more of a challenge to God to use this opportunity to prove Himself to my girl.
Inside the store, at the counter we inquire about this lost toy. I’m anxious now. Afraid honestly, of what my girl’s response will be when the lady returns empty handed. I’m worried that her budding faith could be crushed by God’s “no” to her prayer. I am not hopeful. I am only afraid and riddled with doubt.
Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. (Nehemiah 9:28)
The associate, who was probably an angel, reaches her arm around the partition revealing just the dog, and waves it at my girl. A warm smile spreads across the sales associates lips. Her whole face lights up, mirroring my daughter’s reaction. I am seized with the surprise of this, overcome by God’s generosity, fully aware of how little faith I exhibited–and how He answered my daughter’s prayers anyway.
But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…(Nehemiah 9:17)
I blink tears back as the store associate celebrates this small joy with us. My girl practically floats to the car. I remind her that God heard her prayers, that this is His doing. I’m reminding myself. “I know.” she responds. “We prayed in the backseat on the way here”. It seems while I’d been lost in my thoughts and anxieties while driving, my girls were praying their hearts out for the lost to be found.
I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s faithfulness, about His “yes’s” and “no’s”, about how He grows faith in us, and how hope is not a lost cause. When we want for things that are uncertain, we sometimes say, “don’t get your hopes up”. But as I have been thinking about this, I see the foolishness of this way of thinking.
Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.(Nehemiah 9:33)
Don’t get your hopes up, we say. But why not? What do we risk missing when we refuse to get our hopes up?
As people of the resurrection, we are told to have hope. Isn’t the very life of Jesus the promise of hope fulfilled?
I’ve been in a season flat out refusing to hope. In refusing hope, I imagined that I was somehow protecting my heart from disappointment. But in my refusal to hope I also lost my joy. In refusing to “get my hopes up” I wallowed in doubt and discouragement. Buried beneath a mountain of doubt and disbelief, I cheated my heart out of recalling the goodness of God, out of believing the best about God.
You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. (Nehemiah 9:20-21)
I went home from the store that day thankful for how God chose to answer my daughter’s prayers, and how He used that $2 toy to remind me to get my hopes up–to believe in His capability, to remember His generosity and recount His faithfulness. He is the God of lost hopes, the God who forgives mercifully, repeatedly.
Get your hopes up–your hope comes from Him.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5)