With only forty days remaining until my deadline for Hopelifter, I knew the task was humanly impossible to achieve. Life happenings and my overzealous expectations had once again blocked my hope.
“God, please help!”
I shared my challenge during my weekly phone conversation with my life coach, Anne Denmark.
“I’ve lost my joy!” I spewed. Anne encouraged me to look up the definition of joy. So I grabbed my Zondervan Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. As I scanned the many definitions on the page, my heart leapt. I read these words to Anne over the phone: “Intimate relationship with Jesus is the source of joy . . . The believer’s joy is produced within, by the Holy Spirit.”
I needed this timely reminder that nothing but God could bring me joy.
After several minutes of lively conversation about joy, Anne asked, “What robs you of your joy?”
“Expectations!” I blurted out, then announced, “I’m declaring a ‘Nothing but God’ fast. I’m going to fast from human expectations until the book is done.”
“Whoo hoo!” cheered Anne.
I’d never heard of this kind of fast, but I knew many people throughout the Bible gave up food for a specific purpose and to deepen their hunger for God. I felt compelled to surrender my human expectations until the book was completed. I was uncertain how to do it, but I wanted joy in my life, and nothing but God could give it.
I stepped forward by asking the Holy Spirit to be my guide and companion. I invited Him to reveal my human expectations and self-effort and to show me truth about my striving or unrest. When I became anxious or driven to achieve, I invited Him to show me “His expectation” through Scripture of how I should overcome a specific challenge. Verses with themes of “surrender,” “kindness,” “release,” “forgiveness,” “choose life,” “stewardship,” and “rest” helped me press on in His strength and joy.
I failed a lot, but I also succeeded. Challenges still happened, but my response to them was different. My fresh awareness of God’s promises and power gave me hope. Spreading hope His way, through the power of His strength, to people He knows are hurting, is freeing.
As my writing story shows, reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit requires an important step: surrender!
Put your arms in the air. This simple act communicates “I surrender” and is known globally. If only surrendering to God’s authority and control were as easy as throwing our hands up into the air. I’m embarrassed to admit that too many times I’ve stepped in or spoken up to help someone when I should have surrendered my rights to do or say anything.
I’ve often joked about having “The Messiah Complex”— acting as if I’m the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life, guiding them with my thoughts and ways. My husband and three sons will tell you it’s true.
Needless to say, when I help people in my own strength, it usually hurts them, and I miss God’s peace, potential, and power as a hopelifter.
Sometimes I allow my expectations or others’ expectations to pressure me into running ahead too soon. I cling to carnality and self-centered ways instead of asking for help and direction. No matter how confident or insecure I may feel about helping someone, I must pause and surrender the person, situation, my plans, resources, and even my prayers to God and invite the Holy Spirit to be my helper.
As Paul teaches, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26 – 27).
Spreading hope to others requires us to have a willingness to embrace the power of His Spirit. Surrender is a continual, never-ending emptying of self. Go ahead. Hands in the air. Release self-effort. Surrender to the Spirit, and you will experience His hope-giving power.
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Join the Conversation
What expectations do you have that could be robbing you of God’s joy? How has relying on the Holy Spirit changed your attitude towards others? Leave your comments below.