When you’re little, no one has to tell you to dream big. You’re born with big dreams and high hopes. I wanted to be a WNBA star like my special Lakers Barbie who could shoot baskets. It seemed quite realistic to me.
However, as we grow older, the realities of life start to hit us (I’m 5’2” and pretty uncoordinated. I don’t think I’ll be joining the ranks of Lisa Leslie any time soon). Pretty soon, our dreams get a little smaller. And as they start shrinking, they don’t stop. We’re no longer hindered by the realities of life but by our own mentality. We start shrinking our own dreams.
My little sister always sets herself up for disappointment when she asks a question. “Dad, well, I already know you’re going to say no… but could we… maybe… have a story before bed?” It’s funny when she does it so obviously, but don’t we all do this?
I really want to be ____ some day, but I don’t know… I’m not very smart and well, that seems really hard, so it probably won’t happen. I want to be friends with that girl, but she wouldn’t like me. That guy or girl is really great, but it probably wouldn’t work out and I’ll probably just get hurt.
We set ourselves up for the worst possible outcome, because we don’t want to get hurt. We say we’re “guarding our hearts” like everyone keeps telling us to do. But if we never hope, where’s the excitement in that? Where’s the joy?
I’m a big USC football fan, and well, if you follow college football, you know this was a pretty disappointing season for us. We all started losing morale. However, I have one friend who is always hopeful. When we’re losing terribly at half time, he says, “We’ve got this. We’re gonna’ win.” Now it’s fourth quarter and the score is worse. “We’ve still got it,” he says as he starts crafting out different scenarios where we could turn the tide of the game. “Just an onside kick, a touchdown, and then an interception and another touchdown and we can tie it and win in overtime.”
We lost the majority of those games despite his hopeful commentary. But you know what? It was so much more fun when I gave in to those glimmers of hope. When our quarterback was injured in an awful loss to our rival school, the outcome of the Notre Dame game looked bleak. I was a total defeatist leading up to the game, but right before I started to hope. Maybe… maybe we’ll upset their season, maybe we’ll win, maybe this will be one of those legendary games that makes us forget a disappointing season.
Well, we didn’t win and Notre Dame will be playing in the national championship on Jan. 7… But watching that game was so much fun! And yes, the loss hurt; but if I had gone into it resigning to a loss, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the game at all. And if we had won, I would’ve wasted half of the game being depressed. The enjoyment came from the hoping.
I know there are bigger dreams and higher hopes in life than a college football game, and the losses in those are going to hurt a lot more than losing to a cross-town rival. So, how can we guard our hearts and still enjoy our high hopes?
Guard my heart from what?
Christians use this term a lot, especially when it comes to relationships. It comes from Proverbs 4:23 that says, “Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.” We throw the term around loosely. When someone is involved in a new relationship, “Make sure to guard your heart,” people say. And that’s where the advice usually ends. Guard your heart… ok, but what does that mean???
I think we often are guarding our hearts from the wrong things. W\hen we think of guarding our hearts, we think of guarding ourselves from getting hurt. But let me tell you right now, at some point in your life, you are going to get hurt. Every relationship is a risk.
We risk something every time we tell a friend how much they mean to us. Maybe they don’t feel the same way. We put time and effort into friendships and relationships, and I think all of us can attest to the fact that sometimes you get burned. Every job interview is a risk. A lot of us know the feeling—you get excited about a new possibility and think the interview went great! Then, you get a rejection letter or just never get a call.
Moving forward in life requires risk, and risk means we’re going to end up hurt sometimes.
What we need to guard our hearts from is what we put in them. Hope is good, but we need to make sure we’re hoping for the right things. Proverbs 4 is all about following God’s wisdom and “guarding” his instructions (Prov. 4:13). It says “Listen carefully to my words… let them penetrate deep into your heart.” If we’re filling our lives with wisdom and the word of God, then he’s going to give us our hopes and dreams—our desires will be the things he desires.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” –Psalm 37:4
How to guard your heart
You can guard your heart from unhealthy influences and wrong thinking, which is what it’s talking about in Proverbs 4. However, when it comes to guarding your heart from hurt and disappointment, here’s the secret: you can’t.
Only God can guard your heart, and this is how. Philippians 4:6-8 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” Guarding your heart means, you know where your true happiness lies. It means that no outcome in this life, no high or low, will destroy you.
We guard our hearts by submitting our desires to him and delighting in Him. Every dream that we are anxious about, we can bring to God. And we can do it with thanksgiving, knowing that he wants the best for us. We can thank him for what he’s done already and what he’s going to do.
And we can hope, because we know our happiness doesn’t depend on it. We know we already have all we ever need in Jesus Christ.
So dream big. Take a risk. Tell your friends what they mean to you. Love with everything you have. Let yourself be happy. Let yourself be hopeful!
Let’s start 2013 off right—with hearts full of hope.
What do you think? Do you have any more advice on how to guard your heart? Anything you’re hoping for in the new year?