I’ve heard it said over and over again, “Hope for the best and expect the worst.” I understand the concept behind the adage. But I think that I’m less and less of a believer of it.
Today, in sacrament meeting, we sang the following:
“When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us
And threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us,
And we know that deliverance is nigh.
We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness,
We’ve proved Him in days that are past.” – We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet
About four years ago, Homey and I started our own business. Starting your own business is not for the faint of heart. Both Homey and I, when we started it, knew that it would push us right to the very edge – past anything we have ever experienced. Simultaneously, we knew that we could trust God, and that we would be fine. There would definitely be times when things didn’t feel fine, but we could trust that we were okay.
This thought came the exact instant I told Homey, “it’s time to quit your job and be serious about the business.” Both my own spirit and the Comforter were aligned on this – I knew this instinctually, in my gut, in my Spirit and because of the Spirit – we needed to devote more time to the business. I knew that we needed to take the risk, have Homey quit his job, and focus our efforts 100% on the business. I knew, the Spirit gave me a deep impression that now was our chance – and that if we didn’t take it, there might not be another “right time for it.”
We went to the temple, we referred to our patriarchal blessings. And we knew that this was not only something we wanted to do, but perhaps a part of the work we should perform in this life. It would enable us to be the kind of people God sees in us, and it would enable us to do the work that He would expect of us.
And, thank goodness for the Comforter – even while Homey was still employed with a very secure job that gave us a very secure lifestyle – I knew that we would be pushed right to our limit. And I also felt overwhelming comfort, “You’ll be pushed to your limit, but you will be delivered. You know the pattern – the Lord delivers when your back is at the wall.”
(But He doesn’t deliver us before our backs are to the wall).
That was four years ago. Since then, Homey and I have been working, working, working. We have lived off of savings. We have sold our house. We have moved to Hawai’i, to the mainland – the intermountain west, and then to the East Coast. We have sold nearly all of our belongings (everything we own fits in a small portion of my in-law’s basement – for a family of six!). We own no couches, bookshelves, or dishes. We have had an amazing ride. We have been blessed by the Lord.
And we have been stretched.
At one point along the ride, a well-meaning individual said, “Well, you know – you have to hope for the best, but expect the worst.”
I smiled, and was grateful for the concern. I nodded my head, but I didn’t agree. And the idea has been ruminating in the back of my head for months.
In First Nephi, within the first chapters of the Book of Mormon, we read Nephi’s courageous declaration:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7
Hope for the best, and expect the worst? Not really. Nephi didn’t “hope” that he would obtain the plates. No, he was committed to obtaining the plates. He tried once and twice – lost his entire family’s inheritance, and nearly lost his life. Then he finally entered into the gates of Jerusalem – armed only with the Spirit and with no plan at all. Perhaps the chain of events didn’t happen as he had expected, but his primary expectation and his hope were aligned – He would obtain the plates. No plan B. No other option. That was that. He would obtain the plates or die trying.
Now, maybe you’re wondering, “Well, Nephi was commanded.” Let’s look at another example.
We have a record – in the Book of Ether – of a group of people that originated from Babel, during the time that the Lord confused their languages. One family – Jared’s family and his brothers – prayed to the Lord that they would be able to communicate with each other. So, Jared had his brother – who was highly favored of the Lord – pray to spare their family.
And the Lord did.
Then, Jared asked his brother the following:
“And it came to pass that Jared spake again unto his brother, saying: Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go. And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.” – Ether 1:38.
So – Jared’s brother decides to ask God to drive them out of the land – and perhaps to a promised land. The Lord has compassion. He gives Jared’s brother some instructions, then makes the following promise:
“…And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.
And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And thereshall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.” – Ether 1:42-43
Unlike Nephi and his family, Jared and his brethren were not commanded to flee Babel. They had a righteous desire, they asked the Lord, and the Lord granted accordingly (Ask and ye shall receive…). They would have to do a lot of work, they would travel across the entire world – from Babel to the Americas. But the Lord would grant them according to their prayers.
It would push them right to their limits, but they didn’t have to worry because it would work.
Hope for the best and expect the worst??? NO! Plan B? Plan C? NOOOO! There is one plan! It is to do what God will have us do! There is one expectation – that the Lord’s will will come to pass, and that his promises are sure, that hope isn’t some silly thing that kids do, but that it will anchor our faith by giving us vision.
Imagine that you are walking along the iron rod, toward the tree of life. Do you say, “Well, I’m hoping that I will make it to the tree of life, but I don’t expect it. In fact, I expect that I will wander off on a strange road and get lost – the worst possible outcome.” Do you say, “I’ll hope for the best, but expect the worst,” as if you are an agent to be acted upon, rather than an agent to act – empowered by the infinite grace of God???
I will admit that many, many times in my life I have said, “I won’t get my hopes up.” There is a glimmer of an opportunity, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I don’t want to be disappointed, so I kind of ignore them. Of course, I’m sure you can guess because I expected the worst, I received the worst.
And I’m learning that hope – it isn’t some kind of silly thing. True hope is a facet of faith. It will make an anchor for us so that we succeed. Hope will help us put one foot in front of the other. Hope will give us the vision to find opportunities when our backs are against the wall and every resource appears to be exhausted. Hope gives us the courage to walk into a dark city at night, on an errand from the Lord, with nothing but the Spirit to guide and protect us. Hope gives us the audacity to go to the Lord and ask him for the blessings that He is willing to grant us but can’t until we ask for them.
Hope is how we cheerfully submit to all of the will of God – enduring anything that is thrown before us, knowing that our expectations – deliverance and success – are sure because He Is Sure.