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)
How does God speak to you? Is it through His word? Do His words leap off the page into your heart and mind? Is it through someone else? A person encountering you at the right time with words you needed to hear? Is it a still small voice whispering words of truth and life to your soul? Is it pictures that reveal truth? Is it a combination of everything?
Some friends vacated our rainy weather recently for a family trip. Nick and I took care of the house and pets while they were out adventuring. Maybe it was the change of scenery, the new routine, the inability to do some of my normal household tasks, or maybe it was simply time for me to get a grip, but God spoke to my heart during that time. He revealed to me something about myself-something hard and challenging but essential.
Sitting in the kitchen late one night, I was attempting to read my bible and calm my mind in hopes of luring my brain into a place of rest so I could sleep. Long days filled with stress, frustration, and sadness left my soul restless and grumpy and my brain struggling to fall asleep. Honestly, I could not tell you what I was reading that evening but I clearly remember what happened next. Our friends have two hamsters and in the midst of my reading I suddenly heard one of the hamster’s scurry around his cage, into his wheel, and start running like his life depended on it. He ran faster and faster, and the wheel spun louder and louder and in that moment I heard God whisper to me, Megan you are that hamster. You have to stop spinning and start trusting me the right way.
The right way…ouch, I instantly recognized what He was revealing. I knew something had been off with how I was approaching things. I was too consistently frustrated, or upset for my heart to be where it was supposed to be. I had been unsure of how to fix my heart (and attitude, and thoughts) though, so I continued to push on, barrel through the day, one hundred percent in survival mode. I continually acknowledged to God that my response was not the best answer but I felt I had no options remaining for me. What did God mean trust Him “the right way?” At this point it was now midnight which was way past my little old lady 9:30pm bedtime. I determined that sleep and a fresh brain would help me sort through this realization. The next day, God prompted me to a verse that I have yet to move away from. The verse is Romans 15:13 “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.” May God…fill you with all joy…as you trust in Him. Trusting with Joy. I knew I had my answer.
I trust God. I completely believe He is in control, that He can do miracles, provide wisdom, heal, restore, and give direction. I know we sometimes wait on His promises and I trust in the waiting. My problem was I had not been trusting God the right way, or more accurately with the right actions and right attitude. More often than I care to admit, my trust happens begrudgingly, glumly or complacently. I know God will eventually show up in my situation but I let bitterness, frustration, depression, or sorrow dictate my thoughts and actions. What I often am missing, what I have been missing, is trusting God with joy.
Do you know that joy is both a feeling and an action? The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible says that “Joy as a feeling is called forth by well-being, success, or good fortune. We automatically experience it because of favorable circumstances. Joy as an action can be engaged in regardless of how the person feels. Joy in adverse circumstances is possible only as a fruit of the Holy Spirit.” A feeling and an action. I feel joy when unexpected blessings, exciting adventures, and delicious ice cream come my way. I also though, can have joy even when times are tough. I can trust God with joy even when the wait is long, the season is hard, and the direction is foggy. If joy is an action not just an attitude, then that means the only person responsible for my lack of action joy is me. Not my situation, not the difficult person, not the lack of answers or direction, I am the one responsible. I have to choose to act in joy. Having joy as an action and not just an attitude, only can be accomplished through the help of the Holy Spirit. My attitude response to unfavorable circumstances may not always be joyful but my action response can be, with the Holy Spirit’s help.
Please understand though, God did not give me this insight and I responded with “Wow you are so right! I am going to change my ways. Now I instantly feel better.” That did not happen at all. God spoke to me and I resented the words. How could I be in the wrong? Why did I need to change? I was not the one causing all the problems. If God would just fix my situation, fix the people around me, intervene in a few areas, I could easily have joy. I was simply waiting and trusting God to change everything else around me. But, as I processed through what God showed me, it slowly broke my stubborn heart because I knew I was wrong. I remembered all the moments I blamed people, work, school, church, bad days-for my lack of joy and I realized how my missing joy was due only to what was happening inside of me. I repented to God, I repented to my husband and I walked through forgiving myself and moving forward. This process took time, many ugly snotty tears, hard conversations, and honest reflection and slowly my hard stubborn heart began to soften again and I started to choose to trust God the right way.
I have said it already, but it is worth repeating if only to remind myself, we cannot have action joy without the help of the Holy Spirit. It is only when we devote ourselves to prayer, surrendering our will to God and seeking His help, that we are able to live this way. It is not that you look at the hard, painful situation and say “that didn’t faze me at all.” Or you plaster on a smile and fake joy. No, you need to really feel and process those emotions and run with them to the God who is Lord over all, helps you see what He sees and turns your mourning into dancing, sorrow into joy, and gives peace when it makes absolutely no sense. I can feel sad but I don’t have to live sad, I can feel frustrated but I don’t have to live frustrated, I can feel angry, discouraged, overwhelmed but I don’t have to live angry, discouraged or overwhelmed. I do not have to keep making the same choices. I have today to start anew, to have a fresh start at producing new fruit in my life and trusting God with joy. And so do you, maybe we could walk this journey together and encourage each other along the way?