Hoping in God: Our Anchor in Relationships

By | June 7, 2013

RelationshipsHave you ever found yourself disappointed in a relationship?  Perhaps you expected a friend to meet your needs, but their faithfulness was lacking in your time of need.  Or perhaps you expected marriage to cure your loneliness or help you find fulfillment but your spouse’s ability to be there for you and support you has been lacking.  Or perhaps you have lived life seeking the love or acceptance of a family member but you still have not received their approval or blessing.  In those dark moments, it can feel like life is not worth living.

Disappointment in relationships is a normal part of life in a fallen world.  But despair and depression may signal that we have placed our treasure in the wrong place.  It is normal to hope for good things, such as an understanding and loyal spouse, but to put our ultimate hope in a human relationship is dangerous. A sign that we have a misplaced hope is when we feel depressed, that life is just not worth living anymore because we are not getting our heart’s desires.  Depression should tell us something about our soul and the state of our hearts.

In , we encounter a Psalmist who finds himself in crisis.  His tears have been his food day and night, and he feels that God has abandoned him.  As the chapter progresses, we find the Psalmist preaching to himself, reminding his soul to hope in God, his salvation.  This verse is one of my favorites:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God. (, ESV)

How do we get lifted out of our sorrow and despair?  We are called to hope in God.  He is our salvation and our ultimate hope.  Hoping in Him will NOT disappoint us.  We should pray that God reveals himself in all his glory.

I find myself most anxious and fearful when I am hoping in the wrong things, when I am depending on my idols for fulfillment and happiness.  David Powlison explains why.  “If what you most value can be taken away or destroyed, then you set yourself up for anxiety.”  (“Don’t Worry: ,” Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison, p.115.)  He goes on to explain, “Whether it be money, health, a particular friendship, the dream of marriage, success in sports or business, or how your children turn out, you’re building your house on sand.”

When I make an idol, I am looking for my idol to provide what only God can provide.  Common idols in relationships include love and respect.  When I sinfully crave my wife’s respect and am disappointed, it is not God who has abandoned me, it is my idolatry and my idol that are letting me down.

Recognizing idolatry is a key to solving relational conflict.  Richard Keyes explains idolatry this way: “An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as God. All sorts of things are potential idols, depending only on our attitudes and actions toward them…Idolatry may not involve explicit denials of God’s existence or character. It may well come in the form of an over-attachment to something that is, in itself, perfectly good…An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero – anything that can substitute for God.”

John Calvin stated, “The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.”  The truth is, my marriage, my children, a good friendship, or my acceptance by those in my community is not meant to be my source of ultimate happiness.  These may be good gifts that a benevolent God chooses to bestow on us.  But in our hoping, we are called to hope in God, not in his good gifts for deliverance from our troubles.

What good things have you placed too much trust in?  Money?  The ideal Relationship?  Comfort?  Safety?  Being understood?  Being loved?

May we hope in God today, rather than misplacing our trust in imitation gods (with a little g).  May He be our hope and peace.  And may he give us the wisdom to see our idols for what they are and give us the grace to forsake idol worship to serve the true and living God.

Hoping in our idols will disappoint us, but hoping in God will not disappoint us ().  Hoping in idols will enslave us and give us diminishing returns, but God rewards those who seek after Him () and satisfies us with his steadfast love ().

Our soul waits for the Lord;

he is our help and our shield.

For our heart is glad in him,

because we trust in his holy name.

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,

even as we hope in you. (, ESV)

photo credit: Spencer Finnley via photopin cc

42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (ESV)

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (ESV)

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (ESV)

and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, (ESV)

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (ESV)

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (ESV)

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. (ESV)