When our hopes are in their proper places, attached to the right things, not only do we flourish better as human beings, but we are rescued from a thousand heartbreaks. For not all hopes are created equal; there are casual hopes, precious hopes, and ultimate hopes.

Casual hopes are the daily variety: “I sure hope it doesn’t rain this weekend”; “I hope we can get tickets to the game”; “I really hope this flight is on time.” Nothing wrong with this brand of hope; it is human nature to have them. I think it is the sign of a healthy soul when we often use the words “I hope.” My wife does. “I hope this pie turns out,” meaning she cares about the dinner she is hosting. “I hope we get to the Tetons next year,” meaning she cares about dreams and family memories. Hope shows your heart is still alive.

But of course, those casual hopes are nothing when compared to our precious hopes: “I hope this pregnancy goes well”; “I hope God hears my prayers for Sally”; “I hope the CT scan turns out to reveal nothing at all.” Precious hopes are far deeper to our hearts, and they tend to fuel our most earnest prayers.

Deeper still lie our ultimate hopes, our life-and-death hopes. I would suggest that the only things that belong in the category of ultimate hopes are the things that will destroy your heart and soul if they are not fulfilled. “I hope God can forgive me.” “I hope somehow my mistakes can be redeemed.” “I hope I will see you again.”

You’ll notice that many people have let their hopes go wandering — they have made casual hopes into precious hopes and turned genuinely precious hopes into critical or ultimate hopes. The person who commits suicide because their loved one chose another has taken a precious hope and made it the outcome of their very being.

I would say that when a casual hope is deferred, we are disappointed but no more. We are downcast for a moment or a day. When a precious hope is dashed, it can really break your heart. You may not recover for a week or five years, depending on the loss and the other resources of your life. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). Doesn’t it, though?

But when an ultimate hope goes unanswered, the result is devastation from which you will never recover. Ultimate hopes that suddenly seem uncertain shake the soul to its core. And I will be forthright with you — very few things deserve the place in your heart made for ultimate hope.

Here is my point: the renewal of all things is meant to be your first hope in the way that God is your First Love. If it isn’t the answer to your wildest dreams, if you aren’t ready at this very moment to sell everything and buy this field, then you have placed your hopes somewhere else.

Nearly everyone has.

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