There are the bright hopes I share with my husband for the future of our marriage, our family, and our church. We look ahead and dream about how we'll celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary. We consider school options for the son who is in his last year of elementary school. We talk about the plans God might have for our church, and how we're eager to see them come to fruition.
There are the yearnings I share with friends regarding their own hopes and desires. We talk about the prayers God hasn't answered yet, and how we struggle to have faith that He'll answer at all. We discuss hardships and how we wish things were different. We hold hands and pray, because we can't give ourselves what we desire most. And sometimes we cry because we hope so deeply and want so much.
And then there are the hopes I hold to my heart, the ones that might be tainted or misunderstood if I vocalized them, the ones I don't know that I actually could put to words anyway. Yet my life points toward them always--hoping, seeking, pursuing, grasping for. I want what I don't have, and I want to shed some things that I do.
This is not always a bad thing. Dreams and hopes are not bad things.
But sometimes they are. When I crave a step forward, but not to stand still, I miss the purest place where God is--the present. I miss the promise of manna, of daily bread, of a day filled with countless joys and countless experiences of God Himself. He will be in my future, whether I live or die, but I experience Him most fully in the present. I experience His gifts to me most fully in the present.
Today is not a vain pursuit. Making a name for ourselves, influence, pleasure, possessions, storing up money, coveting for what others have, increasing knowledge to think ourselves wise--these are all vain pursuits, every single one. When you think you've caught one of these things that you hope for or desire, watch it slip through your fingers like wind because that's what it will do.
Many things we hope for aren't vain pursuits, but our future hopes are not the greatest pursuit for today. A wise man said, "I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor--it is the gift of God." After dabbling in everything he could hope for or desire, he said it again in a different way: "Here is what I have seen:...As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor--this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart" (Ecc 5:19-20).
What is our best hope for today? Joy in God and in what He has given right now. Not what we hope He will give, not longing for what once was, joy in our lot today. This is what the wise, experienced man said, and it is the goal and sweet satisfaction of every wise person who recognizes God's loving heart and sovereign hand. This is for those with deep yearning and those with realized dreams, there is no difference. All are to rejoice.
Sometimes our hopes and dreams lead to entitlement or bitterness or frustration. But the pursuit of joy in God keeps our hearts full and busy recounting God's faithfulness. It is never a vain pursuit.
We will not once regret it.