There’s this idea out there that, unfortunately, I think is biblical. It’s that Christians are supposed to be marked by joy and peace and hope, no matter what’s happening in their lives (Romans 12:12, John 16:33, Romans 8:25).
You optimists are probably wondering why I find this idea unfortunate. These are rich benefits of being a believer, you might say. And while I agree, possessing these characteristics would be wonderful, most of the time, I don’t.
I am a whole-hearted follower of Christ who is rarely joyful, hardly ever filled with peace, and almost always feeling hopeless about one thing or another.
So when scripture tells me I should have joy and peace and hope, and I don’t, I feel discouraged.
And today I think I discovered why.
Turns out it’s not my job to manufacture joy or peace or hope. I don’t have to conjure it up out of sheer will. I don’t have to “make it happen” in order to obey the Lord. I’m not expected to “look within” and find these things, like they’re being stored on the top shelf of my soul somewhere, and all I have to do is find them and dust them off.
On the contrary, it’s actually God’s job to fill the Christian with joy and peace and hope.
Paul gives a prayer/blessing of sorts to the Romans and says, “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).
Yeah, so the onus is on Him, not us. This makes me feel a lot better.
According to this verse, “all” you and I have to do is trust in Him. The “rest” – the filling with joy and peace and the overflowing of hope – that’s all God. He produces those things in us as we trust in Him.
For me, trusting God feels a lot easier than coming up with feelings of joy and peace and hope that just aren’t there. Maybe because trust is more of an action than a feeling? When well-meaning clueless people tell me to just “choose” to be joyful, I slap them in my mind. But trusting – there’s something I can choose to do.
The Bible is one story after another of how trustworthy God is. It’s ripe with verses about His goodness and His sovereignty. If there’s one thing I am convinced of, it’s His dependability.
I don’t know how to make myself feel something I don’t, but I know how to say, “Lord, I trust you with _____,” over and over again. And when I do that, feelings of joy and peace and hope will follow.
The next time you’re low on joy and peace and hope, don’t focus on those things. They don’t come from you. Put your energy into trusting God, and He will do the rest.