Does it seem like disappointment lurks around every corner? Whether it's with your job or co-workers, your spouse or other family members, your appearance or your bank account, we are all familiar with feelings of disappointment. Repeated let downs can lead to all kinds of negative emotions. This lack of contentment and emotional upset tends to be a by product of our experiences when people (including ourselves), circumstances, and things fail to deliver on expectations. This is exactly where I tend to meet people when they first come into counseling. Individuals are walking into my office looking for relief from their negative emotions, as well as looking for answers, but the number one thing most sought after by the people I meet is hope. Proverbs 13:12 says,
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
Intense emotions like those that are linked to depression, anxiety, jealousy, anger, and rage can all be signs of such "heart sickness.” We all need hope, a looking forward with expectation to something better. Without hope, it becomes difficult to move forward because real hope provides a light that guides us along our path. Trying to move forward without hope is like stumbling in the darkness, overwhelmed, fearful, and angry at the seemingly unknown. Or worse yet, we place ourselves in the position of a fortune teller and we reluctantly approach each new day with a presumption that the unknown will only bring more disappointment.
This one thing every human has in common; we are all looking for hope. As we look for hope, it goes without saying that we are looking for something or someone to bring us peace and rest, to bring us happiness and joy. We set our sites on those things or people that we believe will fulfill our hope, those are the things that each of us can be found chasing.
If I were to peer into your life, what would I find? I guarantee that overtime, I'd be able to identify where you're attempting to sink your anchor. For example, where does the majority of your time go? Where do your thoughts tend to settle, when given the time to settle? On what things do you tend to spend your money? What would your internet search history reveal? Asking yourself these simple questions, if you're willing to be honest, will lead you to the answer of where you're looking for your hope to be fulfilled.
Here's where the problems lies, all of these things act much like a mirage in the desert. Our hope drives us as one who is parched in a dry land and in desperate need of water. However, as I'm sure you can admit, that if and when you reach that "hoped for" destination, that person/place/thing that you've been chasing, something interesting inevitably happens. We eventually find ourselves discontent; we come to realize what the famous theologian, Mick Jagger, famously belted out in his song, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" to be exceedingly true. That thing loses its luster, that person ultimately disappoints, and that pay raise wasn't enough. That vision of water in the desert ends up nothing more than a mirage and we end up just as thirsty, if not more so, than when we first began the journey.
As Proverbs notes, hope deferred makes the heart sick. As we become continually disappointed by the people and things that we believe are supposed to be bringing us the fulfillment of hope, we become increasingly discouraged. It's this discouragement that leads to every negative emotion listed earlier. King Solomon, the richest and wisest man that ever lived had this to say regarding the pursuit of contentment:
"All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun." Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
Now, some will say that the solution is to find happiness within yourself. Do not be deceived into believing this lie. If it were true that we could simply look within to find true happiness, then what's taking you so long?! Go ahead, reach in there and grab it, I'll wait...
The bible doesn't talk about happiness, per se, however it does speak a great deal about joy, peace, and contentment. Let me be clear, God is not opposed to our "pursuit of happiness." It is the method in which we pursue this happiness that God is concerned. Let us take a look at what just a few scripture verses have to say about true contentment and joy.
"The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing." Proverbs 10:28
"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:8-9
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" Romans 14:17
"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."
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22
"We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone." Psalm 33: 20-22
Notice that joy is described as a "fruit" of the Spirit, God's Holy Spirit. This means that unless we are in possession of the Holy Spirit, we are unable to bear the fruit that it produces. The Holy Spirit is only received when we come to truly understand the gospel message and put our faith and trust in Christ. The moment we do, we are given the promise of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If you aren't sure what that means, or don't really understand the gospel message, take a few minutes to check out these links here and here (please also feel free to send me an email and I'll be happy to point you to additional resources).
When hope is put in its rightful place, it does not fail and it never disappoints. Hebrews 6:19 provides encouragement for those who place their hope in Jesus.
"This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary"
Martin Luther King said, “At times we may feel that we do not need God, but on the day when the storms of disappointment rage, the winds of disaster blow, and the tidal waves of grief beat against our lives, if we do not have a deep and patient faith, our emotional lives will be ripped to shreds. There is so much frustration in the world because we have relied on gods rather than God." In Exodus 20:3 we are commanded by God to "have no other gods before Him" and we are warned of the consequences of doing so.
"It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish." Deuteronomy 8:19
"Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless." 1 Samuel 12:21
"All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame." Isaiah 44:9
Never considered yourself an idolator? As the above scriptures have highlighted, it's about much more than bowing down to some man-made statue. Whatever that thing or person is (including self) that we look to outside of God for our "happiness," is a form of worship. God created us for worship, our hearts long to place worship somewhere. Yet, He is the only One that is worthy of such adoration and commitment, as well as the only One who can satisfy our thirst. Jesus said,
"But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14
"Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35
All other things fall woefully short, no other gods can deliver on the hope we may place in them. Let us set our hope on the One who never fails.
"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" Numbers 23:19
"When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul." Psalm 94:19
This is not a message about "come to Jesus and your life will be perfect." No, those who put their trust in the Lord will continue to face many, if not more, difficulty, stress, pain, and suffering, but with our hope anchored in the Lord, these things will not overtake us and we are promised peace even in the midst of storms. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus told this parable about The Wise and Foolish Builders,
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Notice that Jesus didn't say that the man who built his house upon the rock avoided the storms, not at all, but rather, He tells us that both men experienced the same torrential downpour. However, the man who built his house upon the sand was overtaken, while the one whose foundation was built upon the rock stood firm.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33