The Focus of Our Deepest Hopes

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To listen to today’s reflection as a podcast, click here.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Dark Lord Sauron pours all of his power into a mere ring.
When the ring is dissolved in the volcanic fires of Mt. Doom, Sauron’s seemingly invincible power vanishes, too.
This was too much for one of Tolkien’s readers, a woman named Rhona Beare.  Not long after the trilogy was published in 1954, Ms. Beare wrote Tolkien and complained that it seemed incredible to her that the eradication of such a tiny thing should cause Sauron’s demise.  Tolkien replied:
“The Ring of Sauron is only one of the various mythical treatments of the placing of one’s life, or power, in some external object, which is thus exposed to capture or destruction with disastrous results to oneself.”
To put that in plain English, most people tend to invest their hopes and dreams in something beyond themselves. 
And if anything should happen to that something, their entire life may suddenly collapse.
Author Tim Keller notes: “It is one thing to love somebody and get a lot of joy out of the relationship.  But if that person breaks up with you and you want to kill yourself, it means you have given that person too much glory, too much weight in your life.  You may have said in your heart, ‘If that person loves me, then I know I am somebody.’  But if that person then takes the relationship away, you collapse and melt down because you have ascribed more glory and honor to him or her than to God.”
What if parents build their hopes and dreams around their children, but one of those kids decides to walk away from the family?  What if an entrepreneur invests all of his energy and resources into a can’t-miss business opportunity – betting that this is how he will make his mark – and it crumbles like a house of cards?
The first of the Ten Commandments seems extreme: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
Is God that insecure?  Is God so neurotic that he can’t abide rivals of any kind?
It’s more accurate to say that God knows he is the only one who can handle the overwhelming burden of sustaining our lives with hope and meaning.  God is the only one who can be the focus of our deepest expectations and not let us down.
If you find yourself thinking… 
I’ll only be happy if I get that job.
I’ll feel miserable this weekend if my favorite team loses again.
If she doesn’t apologize, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
…it’s time to wonder if you have risked your wellbeing with something pitifully smaller than God, and assigned to that relationship or dream way more power than it deserves.
If we pour our hopes into anything that is Not-God, we can be sure there will be a meltdown sometime in the future.