Originally published Wednesday, 16 October 2013.
In my ladies bible study one morning, I listened to a few young moms share their struggles with getting their babies to sleep. As they shared encouragement and suggestions with each other, it brought back memories of my own sleeping issues with my children. Those early years was a time of exhaustion and where sleep had literally become an idol in my heart.
Then as my kids grew, my idol of sleep was replaced by a desire for "me time." I decided that if I just had a few minutes to myself, I would be a better, happier person. I blamed my irritability and impatience on the fact that I was with my children 24/7 and had no breaks.
I've had many things in my life where I thought, "If _____ then ______." "If only I had a bigger house, then we wouldn't feel so cluttered and closed in." "If only my husband didn't work so much, then I wouldn't be so stressed with the kids." "If only I could get ___ done, then I'd feel at peace." If only....
The truth is, all those things, whether big or small, in that moment, that is where I put my hope. That "if only" thing was my Savior. Whether it was a solid night's sleep, a different job, a new house, or getting more help with my children, I idolized those things and put my hope and expectation in those things to make my life better. It's like I lived in a "grass is greener over there" mentality all the time.
Now don't get me wrong, sleep is a good and wonderful thing. So is getting quiet time to yourself. But they can't be our source of hope. Because the truth is, good things quickly become wrong things when they are the first thing in our heart.
The reality is, Christ does not call us to a simple, laid back, carefree life where everything goes smoothly and problem free. He calls us to carry crosses, to take joy in suffering, and to seek him first above all things. He calls to be faithful in whatever situation we are in, not waiting until everything lines up just right before we honor him in how we live. In fact, Christ calls us to live for him whether we are tired or well rested, have the perfect job or the worst job, and whether our life is stress free or filled with chaos.
Our hope in life rests not in our circumstances but in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
I know that in my mind but too often I fail to live in out in my heart. Instead of my vision being filled with Christ, I am distracted by the world, my selfish desires, and trying to live in my own strength. Too often, instead of finding my rest in what Christ has already done for me, I'm out pursuing the temporary rest the world offers. Instead of trusting in Christ, moment by moment for my strength, I seek some other outside source as the solution to my weakness. As Paul wrote in Romans 7, "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate...Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (15, 24-25)
By his grace, Christ never leaves us all alone in our weakness. We are never far from him. When we lift our eyes off ourselves, we'll see him standing there with outstretched hand. And when we seek him first, trust him alone, find our hope in him alone, he gives us just what we needed all along--more of himself. Because more than making our lives comfortable, he wants to make us more like him. For me, that has meant not giving me what I long for. It has meant keeping me in places and situations I don't want to be. It has also meant withholding some of my plans and dreams.
He does this not to be cruel but so that I would find all that I need in him. He's teaching me to die to myself so that I would live for him. And the more of me that dies, the more contentment I find in whatever circumstances I find myself.
Paul talks about contentment in Philippians, "for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (4:11-13). He learned to be content in whatever circumstances God placed him. This is because his hope was in Christ. He knew that because he had Christ, he had all he needed. He trusted Christ to sustain him whether he had plenty or had nothing. And as he also wrote, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) Since Christ was sacrificed on our behalf, doesn't that show God's great love for us? If he was willing to lower himself into a human body, to suffer and bear our sin and shame, won't he also give us all that we need?
How much easier it is to trust and put our hope in some program, solution, the newest book or the latest craze than in the gospel of grace! The gospel seems so much less concrete and manageable. It's not something I can check off my list. It's not something I can do. Yet isn't that the point? We can't do. We can't get everything right. We can't obey. And that's why Jesus came. Because he came, we now have hope forever. We have open access to our Heavenly Father, forever forgiveness, endless grace and mercy, and freedom from sin. We have all we need in Jesus.
And that's the best hope of all. Don't you think?