Dreaming is fun. When a group of friends dream together, the air crackles with the energy of the possibilities being generated in the room. That is, until someone like me begins to ground the ideas in the reality of pitfalls and problems. After one such dream session again deadened by my lack of optimism, one of my friends finally asked me, “Don’t you ever expect the best?”
That question hit me square in the heart. By nature, I am a problem solver. And where there is no problem, sometimes I look for something to fix any way. When looking at ideas or reviewing something we have accomplished, I easily see the pitfalls that need to be fixed. That starts with recognizing there are pitfalls.
The “gift” itself has a pitfall, at least in my practice of it. That pitfall is not recognizing the good that is in front of me. I have to consciously and intentionally look for what is good, what will work, or what has worked. Maybe it is better said that I need to put the search for problems on the back burner and let the good come to a boil first. Then we can return to the issues that might hamper the good stuff.
Over time, my processing has changed. I look for what is good and name it before trying to make adjustments. I actually make it a point to speak some of positive I see before going into problem-finding mode.
Beyond a personal confession, what does this have to do with anything?
Given the widespread uncertainty and tension around us, a common question that circles around us is, “What bad thing is coming next?” We wonder what else could happen that will rock the world and not in a good way. Is it even possible to expect anything good?
There are people in my church congregation that are experiencing hard times in their bodies, jobs, and even relationships. It has gone on for so long or come on so strongly and suddenly that they ask, “Is there any good to expect?”
Enter the Psalmist who wonders with us:
“Many people say, ‘Who will show us better times?’” (Psalm 4:6a)
Is there any good we can expect? Can we dream of the best and not have it thwarted by some form of evil or hardship?
The psalmist lamented that the times were hard and the only thing we could do is pray, keep our hearts right, and not scream into our pillows. How does one expect the best when the best cannot be found?
While the Psalmist speaks hard truth, he also has this center of hope and makes his plea to Yahweh:
Let your face smile on us, Lord.
You have given me greater joy
than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe. (Psalm 4:6b-8)
The best good things come from the Lord – our joy, our provision, our rest. Who can show us any good? If we rely on friends, they may fail us. If we rely on government, it will not come through. If we rely on ourselves, we will not fulfill our own good because we cannot do and be all things, no matter how competent or charismatic. The best comes from the Lord. When he smiles on us and turns his face towards us, we will know the best. we can expect the best.
Okay, I hear it in my head – I asked the Lord for the best and nothing changed. I have known this as well. I have asked for relief or change. It did not matter in the moment. Nothing happened. So why should I have hope? How can I still expect the best? Because the Lord himself keeps his word and gives his word at the right time. His own character says he will show us good and be with us in hard times. This does not translate into God doing what we expect or want. It means he will gives us what is best for us. In receiving his best in his time, we can have great joy and sleep in peace.
I usually do not want to hear this in the middle of pain and doubt. This is perspective I have come to only after going through some deep waters in the past. I may yet have deep waters ahead. And the Lord will be the same in those times. He will be faithful and he will bring me through to a place of rest and joy. It is His best that I can expect.