It’s been a weird day. I’ve been having a lot of those lately and I think it may just be the weather.
I adore North Idaho, truly. But I’m a sunshine girl at the core. I’ve lived in Portland and I’ve lived in LA so I know from experience where I thrive.
The romantic in me will tell you that I like rain and overcast days (and she wouldn’t be lying), but the fact is, they can make me pretty sad.
I also notice my productivity hits the ground when the sun isn’t shining which is something I’ve really been trying to push through these past few weeks. But today, despite every good plan to get lots done, I just couldn’t muster up the energy. Not only that, but I was anxious and irritable and just feeling pretty messy overall.
I decided to do the opposite of last night’s solution, which was eating my feelings and vegging out to Hamilton (not that Hamilton isn’t great). I knew that what I really needed today was to spend time with God.
I find God everywhere and in most everything. The Bible says that His Spirit makes our heart His home when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I believe that. I believe that He’s just as present and accessible to us when we’re scrolling TikTok as He is at church on Sunday morning. His presence doesn’t leave us.
Driving with God
So this afternoon, God, my teddy bear, and I hopped into my car, blasted the heat, and drove up into the mountains.
And we just kept driving. For almost two hours.
And I did what I always do on a destination-less drive. I sang my heart out to worship music, I spoke to God, and I cried (anyone else?).
I also looked at houses. I have a thing for neighborhood window-shopping. And a home in the mountains in North Idaho is what a beach house is on the coast in Florida – a dream.
So dream I did. I began imagining myself with my own white-picket fence and wrap-around patio. Big windows on every side of a two-story home. And enough room in the front for all my friend’s and family’s cars that will need somewhere to park when they come by.
I must’ve been daydreaming for 15 minutes when I had a thought that stopped me in my tracks:
I thought to myself that if only I lived in my dreamhouse, I wouldn’t be feeling sad today…
That somehow the weather wouldn’t phase me if I was living in the comfort of my ideal home.
I know what you’re thinking – but the fact is, I know better. It’s silly to me that it even crossed my mind. That’s the human in me- I guess.
But remember, God was with me in the car.
Deceptive thoughts just can’t stay long in the presence of God – so it was gone a moment later, as truth rushed back in (John 14:26).
The Grass Isn’t Greener
I want to make something clear: the desire is okay. Hopes and dreams and aspirations are all part of the way that God intricately designed our hearts. And He wants to give us our desires if they are good and won’t destroy us, just as any good Father wants to please and protect his children. (It’s important to note that even good things can be bad for us if we rely on them for our contentment.)
So the problem isn’t the desire. No, it’s when we’ve convinced ourselves that the grass is greener that we need to check our hearts; when we believe that we are in need and lacking some essential key to happiness. When we tell ourselves that we will be content when we are making X amount of money, or when we get the car or the house or the job – that’s when we can be sure that this happiness will never be obtained.
The Secret to Contentment
Paul was in jail when he wrote the book of Philippians (which is one of my favorite books in the Bible and is only 4 chapters long!). In this book, he penned something remarkable that nearly every Christian has pondered at some point:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.Philippians 4:11-12
Yes, that’s it! That is exactly what we all need! Okay, Paul we’re listening…
But this next part is interesting. He actually doesn’t spend much time on this “secret”. He just leaves us with this one simple idea:
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:13
Wow. So here Paul is, locked up in jail, teaching all the rest of us how to be content regardless of the circumstances.
And the short advice he hands us is so far off from the self-help gospel that we are spoon-fed today. He doesn’t suggest meditation or positive thinking. He points us to his much more effective and sustainable source of strength:
What he suggests is that there is a contentment- a satisfaction- that can be obtained even in the worst, through a strength that God provides. When we’re longing for better days, an authentic relationship with Jesus enables us to understand that what we have is more than enough. Because He is enough.
Can I get a manual for that?
People love lists. We want a set of rules that we can follow to solve every problem. I believe something inherent in us wishes that Paul left us a series of steps – a How-To article, if you will- on cultivating the contentment he claims to have. In a time of instant gratification and constant busyness we want our answers cut- and-dry.
But Paul knew it didn’t work this way. There’s no steps. No rules. Just a relationship to be formed with a loving Father who wants to give us new hearts and better perspective.
What I love about Jesus is He works personally with each one of us in our relationships with Him. Just like something broken is best fixed in the hands of its original maker, our hearts are restored in God alone, and nothing else fulfills our needs like He does.
The idea of getting contentment from God may seem frustratingly vague, but I think that’s kind of the point. So I won’t add to Paul’s advice. Instead, I’ll repeat his own brilliant suggestion:
Just go to God. As you are.
That’s what I did (and what I find myself doing constantly). There in the car, winding up the mountain, I asked God for renewed contentment. I thanked Him for being enough and for giving me all I need.
But I didn’t stop there. I went on to tell Him what I was hoping for. And I asked Him for it.
Tell God about Your Dreams
Like I said before, there’s no shame in a desire for something. God’s not a genie in a bottle, so we shouldn’t treat Him like one. But He knows our every thought. We couldn’t hide them from Him if we tried, so we may as well just talk to Him about them (Philippians 4:6-7). I’ve found that trusting God with your dreams is a much safer bet than trying to achieve them on your own. Just take my word on that one – okay?
God longs to give you the strength that He freely gives me when I go to Him. And He promises to meet with you when you seek Him whole-heartedly (Jeremiah 29:13). He’s not mad at you, or in any way burdened by your sins. He just wants to free you from them.
By the way friend, feel free to reach out online or in the comment section. Seasonal depression and/or distance from God are real and heavy, and you shouldn’t have to walk through them alone.
Thanks for stopping by again!
P.S. I recommend bringing a cozy stuffed animal with you next time you take a drive – it’s surprisingly comforting!