There is only one source from which we receive the promise of our hope. There is only one who can satisfy. If I put my hope in anything other than His goodness, I will most assuredly be disappointed. Even if I acquire exactly what I had hoped for, no matter how sweet it tastes, it will end as bitterness in my belly, as I discover I am no more satisfied than I was beforehand.
Today I experienced unspeakable joy. I started the day in His presence, and it only increased from there. Affirmation, revelation, and worship followed swiftly on the heels of this joy, and while I’m not much of a cloud counter, I believe I was on the ninth one today.
At some point during the evening, however, I was suddenly aware that this joy was no longer mine. A sudden oppression had fallen over me. I had no clue where it had come from, but it was all too familiar. To my knowledge, I hadn’t sinned. There was no conviction, no condemnation, and nothing specific coming to my mind. I began to worship, but as was typical under this atmosphere, I wasn’t getting anywhere no matter how much I prayed or worshipped or thanked or made declaration. In the past I may have given up, perhaps turned to activity to help myself ignore the fact that I was disconnected from the Father.
But not today. No, the joy was too fresh in my mind to simply accept this sudden and seemingly unprovoked oppression. It is a core value of mine that I never have to accept even one moment outside of His presence, one instant outside of His joy. Though I face intense trials, even severe pain, I can always… ALWAYS… remain wrapped firmly inside of His infinite goodness.
So, I did what an individual such as myself tends to do when facing a spiritual dilemma. I traded the jeans for some gym shorts, threw on dat hoodie, and jogged out into the cold rainy darkness for a contemplative run. And as usual, this accomplished absolutely nothing. Fortunately, being an observant individual with a good memory, I knew my hope for breakthrough was in connecting with the Father rather than grasping for control through the use of my physical abilities.
At some point during my run, I happened upon a rather thoughtful spot. While the road was easily visible, the moisture in the air combined with the darkness to give it a secluded feel. I slowed to a walk and began to worship again. I began to think about the things that had weighed on my mind of late. I began to imagine better scenarios, picturing the fulfillment of my various hopes in life, but only for a moment. For reasons I couldn’t explain, my spirit quickly rejected this style of thinking. Something in me said, “No!” that this was the product of an old wineskin, and not at all becoming to the man of faith that I am. And then suddenly, I had the brilliant, innovative, and totally unheard of idea to ask God what the deal was. Crazy right? Ask the Father to discern the spirit… who’d have thunk it?
So that’s just what I did. I asked Him, “Father, what is this oppression?” And as soon as the question had left my lips, He responded with two simple words… “false hope.”
False hope. Okay? What did that even mean? The revelation quickly followed as I dwelt on what He had spoken. My eyes were opened to the lie that had been pervading my perception, the unconscious belief that factors other than Christ were the source of my joy. I realized that, even in the midst of all the wonderful things He was doing in me, I had placed my hope in good things that simply were not Him. Many of these things were incredibly simple. I had a hope that dominating my roommate in the Madden Football video game would make me feel better. I had the hope that demonstrating my basketball prowess at the Bethel-Simpson game would increase my visibility in Redding. I had the hope that writing an amazing article would validate my sense of purpose. And off course, there were the deeper areas as well, the slightly more profound and infinitely less temporal: issues of purpose, relationships, acceptance, and influence.
Ultimately, the core issue was the same. I had unconsciously placed my hope in something other than the Lord. I had held onto my positive prospects as the source of my hope and the fuel of my joy. Oh how quickly the veil is torn when the heart’s gaze is set on the King (2 Cor 3:16). How lovely it is when we abide in the Word, and the truth He reveals sets us free (John 8:31,32). The moment His truth had entered into my heart, I began to laugh at the lies of the enemy and rejoice in the hope I have in Christ Jesus (Col 1:27).
And what a hope it is. How perfect is His peace when our eyes are fixed upon Him (Isaiah 26:3). Oh I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously (Exodus 15:1). My enemy, the accuser of the brethren, has been cast down, and I am under his lordship no more (Rev 12:10).
Truth has permanently liberated me from this oppression. Will I ever again place pieces of my hope in other things? It’s conceivable. But now I will recognize the spirit and know precisely how to deal with it. If you are discouraged or upset or if you feel oppressed, I implore you to ask the Father right now to show you what you are placing your hope in. It doesn’t have to be bad things to leave you empty. If your hope is in Christian community, you are desiring a wonderful and necessary thing, but you will ultimately be left empty, because He alone can satisfy. If your hope is in a spouse or significant other, no matter how incredible he or she is, you will most assuredly be left wanting. If your hope is in financial or ministerial success, five billion dollars and six million souls will be as ashes in your hands. He alone can satisfy. And when you taste and see, when you place your hope in the Rock, the word “satisfied” will seem inconceivably quaint.