I’ve been contemplating the fine balance between all the paradoxical tensions that the Bible offers us. Taking inventory of where I’m white knuckling this balance – and where I’ve let the imbalance reign. I love paradoxes. I always have. This idea that you can hold two seemingly opposing truths at the same time – neither one negating the other – is fascinating to me, and perhaps it’s one of the reasons studying the Bible is so compelling to me…other than it being the living word of God…I mean, that too.
So what do I mean about paradoxical tension?
- Jesus as fully God and fully human.
- The tension between fearing God as King, but having unrequited access to Him as father…while also living in intimate relationship with Jesus.
- Living as a servant, while having power and authority as a son or daughter of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
- Sitting still and not striving because of grace, while also stepping towards God’s standard (Jesus) because of grace.
There are so many more – but I think you get what I mean, yeah?
A paradox that God has really laid on my heart lately – as I contemplate what it looks like for me specifically to follow Jesus – has been the paradox between contentment and expectancy. God calls us into both. He asks us to be both content in Him, and expectant on Him. It’s a difficult balance, and I tend to lean toward expectancy…which can often throw off my contentment.
But when I thought about how I attain contentment now, I had to admit to that I have just trained myself to expect less. In fact – for honesty’s sake – I literally wrote “expect nothing” in my journal. Ya know? No expectations, no disappointment. I believe this is the World’s way to contentment. It reminds me of that quote from Almost Famous – “I always tell the girls, never take it seriously, if ya never take it seriously, ya never get hurt, ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” No expectation = no hurt, right?
But, that’s not God’s way. God calls us to expect while remaining content. I like to call this balance – fervent equanimity (both synonyms for our words here) – which is just kind of funny. Burning calmness. Passionate composure. Intense and calm.
When I went to the bible and did a word study on both contentment and expectancy. I found something pretty interesting. Many times when God asks us to be expectant he asks us to be EAGERLY expectant. Beside the common one of expectant prayer, these are the things God calls us to be eagerly expectant about:
- Eager to preach (Romans 1:15)
- Eager to prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:39)
- Eager to do good (1 Peter 3:13)
- Eager for gifts of the spirit (1 Corinthians 14:12)
- Eager to work (2 Corinthians 8:11)
- Eager to remember the poor (Galatians 2:10)
- Eager for God (Isaiah 58:2)
- Eager to know His ways (Isaiah 58:2)
- Eager to Serve (1 Peter 5:2)
Something that stuck out to me? All of those are outward focused. All those are either focused on others or on God. None of those are focused on personal gain – the Bible doesn’t say – eagerly expect God to change your financial situation. It doesn’t say eagerly expect God to bring you a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Seek FIRST His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you (Matt 6:33).
Why do I call it wholehearted expectancy? Because the synonym for eager is wholehearted – “showing complete sincerity and commitment”. I just love that. So all the above mentioned things that we are called to be eagerly expectant for – we need to remain sincere and committed to. Sincerely committed to expectancy.
As for contentment God calls us to be content in ANY situation – “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in.” (Philippians 4:11 See also – 1 Corinthians 12:10, Hebrews 13:5). I understand contentment to be a total peace with where I’m at in life and who I am in Christ – while not wanting or obsessing for anything. This contentment is more of an internal posturing because it really has nothing to do with circumstance or situation. Contentment isn’t focused on the outwardly – it’s internal.
You see? We can’t just be content without wholehearted expectancy for that would breed complacency…and we can’t be expectant without contentment for that would breed anxiety. While contentment focuses on our internal positioning regardless of what’s happening in our lives, expectancy focuses on our external positioning with both God and others.
This paradox is about relinquishing control while remaining hopeful. Acknowledging that God Himself must work it. Resting in equanimity while expecting God to show up, move, and work all things together for the good of those that love him…and eagerly (wholeheartedly) pursue His Kingdom and righteousness in the meantime.