Contentment vs Hope

I got mad at God on Sunday night. He has been challenging me to hope for some specific things recently, and that’s not always easy. A friend of mine was praying for me recently and sent me a text with Romans 15:13 (NIV) “May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

As I prayed into this verse, I discovered that after having my hopes disappointed before, (see “The Carrot Factor”), I still have dreams that are walled off. I have locked them away lest disappointment come again, and digging them out has proven more challenging than I first imagined.

The difficulties of hoping for these things in my life is not the reason for my temper tantrum, however. That came with another text from this same friend. She occasionally sends me devotional readings via text, and this particular reading urged the reader to find his or her completion and fulfillment in Christ alone – not people, possessions or power. Normally, I have no issue with this idea. After all, He is God, and of course, He is more than enough to fulfill every longing in the human heart.

On Sunday evening, though, I had a major problem with this directive. If He is it, all I will ever need to be complete and fulfilled in every longing I experience, WHY is He asking me to hope for other things? It made me angry to be asked in a very short time to do two seemingly mutually exclusive things. How can I be totally fulfilled in Jesus Christ, while longing for things on earth? By the time I was able to get alone with God on Tuesday, I was asking how He could expect a “both/and” response in what seems like an “either/or” scenario.

This is not the first time I have struggled with the idea of “contentment”. I have lost count of how many times I have reached a place in my life where I feel content and fulfilled in my life and relationship with God, only to have Him begin speaking about a new ministry He has for me to be involved in or a man who will “soon” enter the picture. I have accused Him at times of enjoying my misery. Why else would He push me to hope again for people or position or whatever just when I reach a place of contentment and fulfillment in Him?

This is, however, the first time I have had a deep revelation that my understanding of contentment is skewed. I don’t know how many people have told me over the years that I just have to learn to be content in my singleness, my financial state, or my ministry. I can think of times when I have been told that things won’t change until I learn to be content with where I am, as though it’s a test and until I pass it, I can’t move on to the next lesson. Verses like Philippians 4:11 are quoted as a standard to strive for; “…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”

The thing I noticed today as I looked for verses that speak of contentment, is that all of them I found (including the one where Jesus Himself is speaking) refer to possessions. They speak of being content with your wages, with only having food and shelter, with having little or much. I didn’t find a single verse that spoke of being content with where you’re at in life, and honestly, I am beginning to think it’s not God’s desire for us to be fully content.

As I prayed and wrote in my journal, I began to realize that while I am complete, perfected through Jesus, I am not yet at my final destination. I was designed for more than this place I’m in right now. Each of us was designed to live with God in heaven, and as long as we’re on earth, we are out of place. It’s no wonder we feel discontented at times! (In fact, I wonder if the real issue isn’t that point when we become so comfortable, so content here on earth that we cease longing for His Kingdom to come in its fullness!)

Another way I’m beginning to see this principle in my own life has far less to do with location, and more to do with purpose. I believe that God has spoken to me that He has designed me to be a wife and mother (one day), a teacher, a writer, and more. Right now, I am one of those things. I am complete in Christ, but until I have fulfilled those things I know I am designed for, there is a divine discontent, a knowledge deep down inside that there is more to come.

So, yes, find completion in God. He truly is the only source of satisfaction. He is the Source of fulfillment for all of our deepest longings and hopes. Sometimes those hopes involve people, possessions or even position/power. The key for those hopes is the focus.  I am learning to hope IN God, FOR ….. (insert desire here). For a time I got this confused and hoped IN people, ministry, etc., and I found that to be a sure path to disappointment.

As you spend time with God, and become more deeply satisfied in Him, allow yourself to feel the divine discontent. It’s likely your heart is screaming there must be more than this. I silenced that voice in my own heart for far too long in the name of contentment. But the truth is, there is far more awaiting us, not only in the Kingdom to come, but in the adventure, romance and beauty that God has designed us to co-create with Him even here on earth! Let’s not become so content that we no longer dream with and hope in Him for more.

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