Lord, my times are in Thy hand; All my sanguine hopes have planned To Thy wisdom I resign, And would make Thy purpose mine. Josiah Conder 1836
“Sanguine hopes,” those cheerful, wishful things that we look forward to, are just the opposite of the “foreboding fears” in Conder’s previous stanza. But this kind of wishful thinking can be just as big a stumbling block. In the first part of our lives, it is easier to expect that our happy and often ambitious plans will really happen. But that kind of optimism gets harder and harder after we’ve experienced some of life’s reversals.
The children of Israel, for example, grumbled that their journey after leaving the slavery of Egypt wasn’t what they’d planned or expected. And so they looked back, wistfully recalling that time when they “ate bread to the full” (Ex. 16:1-3). The problem with “sanguine hopes” is that they not only focus our attention on the desirable things we want to have happen but also on the things we wish we could return to. Both behaviors keep us from focusing on the present moment.
What kept the Israelites persevering for the next forty years, however, could not have been based in that kind of wistfulness. Wishful thinking doesn’t push back despair. And the yearning that looks backward doesn’t show us the way forward. That’s why the daily “manna” that Moses promised the Israelites had to have been more than just the expectation of something to eat. They were also learning to trust, to abandon control and allow God to hold their future.
The kind of hope that comes with this surrender is indeed anchored in the eternal. And yet it must begin right here and right now. It must be practiced and nourished day by day in moments of humility and yielding. How effortless and sustaining faith can be when we finally let go and say, “Lord, my times are in Thy hand.” I love those words!