If we get the cart of a better life in front of the horse of a better hope, here’s what can happen:
• We feel like posers. One Christian friend, when asked how he was doing, always answered, “If I were twins, I couldn’t be better.” That response left me cold, skeptical, and hesitant to be honest because I usually wasn’t nearly as fantastic. When we think God has promised us a wonderful life, we end up faking it till we make it, as if not doing well is announcing that God is less awesome than advertised.
• We start thinking God is holding out on us. My wife, needing a new dentist, was lured by an ad promising new patients a free Kindle. After her appointment, she learned about the fine print, which left her Kindle-free. When we think God’s promises include a better life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of demand and resentment, expecting him to work everything out. When life throws us a curve ball—or worse, a battering ram—it feels as if we’re told we didn’t read the fine print.
• We foolishly assume we deserve our blessings and good fortune. We might think, for example, that our incredible parenting has cookie-cuttered out great offspring. I understand there are real ways in which following God increases our chances at a better life, but when following him becomes a subtle (or not so subtle) pharisaical equation, we get into trouble.
• We end up disappointed, distrustful, and angry. When we inevitably fall it’s easy to get mad at ourselves for not having enough faith, or mad at God for being less than we want.
In contrast, when the “better hope” is our main foundation: 1. We’re free to invest in people and things that matter because we aren’t worried about the return. 2. We draw close to God during adversity. 3. We live more genuine, passionate lives.
Youth, by its nature, wants solutions immediately. But one of your greatest gifts to teenagers is helping them place hope in the pole position, where it will do them the most good.
Steve is a longtime contributor to GROUP and a counselor whose practice focuses on teenagers. He lives in Washington state.
Quote: “Faith is the word that describes the direction our feet start moving when we find that we are loved.”—Frederick Beuchner, The Magnificent Defeat
Song: “Garden,” Needtobreathe