RIGHT THING, WRONG ORDER
"May the god of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the holy spirit." — Romans 15:13
We recently moved, and it was quite an ordeal moving from one town to another with three kids under five. At the end of the night, I found myself reaching for my favorite kind of chocolate. It was an automatic response. I wasn’t consciously choosing to reach for this snack out of hunger. I was focused on the feeling of exhaustion at the end of a long, difficult day and was reaching out for this treat as a form of comfort. Maybe that is not stating it strongly enough: I felt entitled to my favorite treat because of the hard day I had.
I have been noticing something, though. Lately, these “treats” have not been cutting it. No matter how wild the day has been, no matter how much I have been looking forward to these special treats, no matter how many treats I reach for—they have not been able to get close to satisfying the deeper longings I have.
I think our verse this month speaks to why these treats have been failing me. I’ve been focusing my efforts on the wrong things. I keep thinking that my circumstances will bring about the joy or peace I am looking for, whether it is the right living situation, the right treats, well-behaved children, well-behaved hair, etc., but the reality is that these things can never satisfy that deep longing. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad things. And, it isn’t wrong that they can bring me some level of happiness. They just were not created to satisfy on a deeper level. I know that. I know that God is the only one who can satisfy those desires, but often find myself trying to short-circuit the process by not putting things in the right order.
“...as you trust in him…”
You could also read this portion of the verse in the inverse “As you trust in him, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.” It is through the very act of trusting in him that he is able to fill us with joy and peace. I am relieved that the word “as” is included here. While “as” denotes a degree or level of something, here it also connotes a process of or opportunity to increase our trust in him. It gives me the sense that the Lord knows that it is hard for us to trust him and that he is patient with us through the process. The more we trust in him, the more opportunity we have to be filled with the joy and peace he offers.
I think sometimes I believe the lie that if I can get the circumstances right, peace and joy will follow. Here we see that attaining joy and peace isn’t circumstantial at all. Instead, it has to do with our trust in the Lord. That makes sense to me on the surface, but the reality is it’s just not how I typically find myself thinking about, talking about or going about attaining peace. My thoughts and behaviors are rarely along the lines of “I am really lacking peace or joy right now—where do I need to be trusting God more?” Instead, it is usually “What can I do to get my circumstances better lined out so I can feel more peace or joy? How can I control this feeling?”
The crazy part is that I have experienced both sides of this pursuit. I’ve had seasons and times when things have been great and yet I still had that nagging feeling of lack or emptiness. On the other hand, I’ve been in some really hard seasons where things looked pretty bleak, but I felt so covered by his peace in spite of the reality of my situation.
In the Believing
How does that work exactly? What does it look like? It is interesting to note that the phrase “as you trust in him” literally means “in the believing” in the original language. It is actively, intentionally, habitually evaluating what I know to be true and asking if I am operating out of those beliefs. Asked another way, do I really believe what I say I believe? Do my thoughts, words, actions and interactions confirm what I know about who God is, or are my beliefs and behaviors in conflict?
While I know what is true, I need to remember it and believe it. I need to trust him to be the one who is able to provide me with the joy and peace I seek. And, the more I trust him, the more opportunities I will have to experience the joy and peace that only he can give. It can be hard to do. Just like we discussed a couple of months ago, the idea of belief can seem simple, but it is not always easy to live out (read “Believing is Work").
Reaching for my chocolate in an attempt to alleviate my stress is not demonstrating what I know to be true. I mean, am I really putting my hope in chocolate? Yikes. The next time I find myself reaching out for a treat to make me feel better, I am going to ask myself instead if this is the right thing to be reaching for to make me feel better. It might be time to ask myself where I need to be trusting God more, knowing that he is the source of that joy and peace my heart desires.
What are the quick and lesser things you find yourself reaching for?
What if next time you find yourself struggling with your circumstances and reaching for a treat, you take a few minutes and reflect on where you might be wrestling with trust instead?
Thanks for reading,
Meet RANDI owens
Hey everyone! I'm randi. i live in small town colorado with my husband, clinton, and our three rowdy boys. i love being part of a crew whose mission is to help equip others to know god's word deeply.
ON THE PODCAST
An Invitation to Experience Hope // Natalie Abbott & Vera Schmitz
Is it hard for you to believe that you can experience overflowing hope daily? If so, you’re in the right place! Join Natalie and Vera, co-founders of Dwell Differently, as they share what they’ve been learning as they've memorized and meditated on Romans 15:13 this month. Consider this your invitation to experience true hope as you trade in your own independent efforts to muster up some kind of hope for a real dependence on the God of hope, who offers us abundant joy and peace and hope as we trust in him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We'd love to see you around.