On a recent trip to Florida, while staying at a hotel the night before my flight home, I found myself in a hot tub alone. There, the thrumming jets transformed the clear green water into a foaming white froth. I had been seeking God’s will for my life—in particular, hoping to learn to hear His voice better: Devouring every resource I could find. Striving to discern that little voice in my mind (or through my reading) that may or may not be God. Constantly questioning if I was doing all I could to hear—and hearing right.
Amidst the solitude, warmth, and the bubbling hum of churning water commanding my full attention, a clear thought crystallized: “This is your mind.” Immersed in the boiling jets with turbulent currents buffeting my skin, the meaning was clear.
Tarássō / Troubled
My mind. Always in motion. Rarely settled.
Always studying, questioning, striving, reaching. Ever searching for another glimpse of God’s work in my life—or a hint of His direction for future action. Always striving to be proactive. Even when my goal has been to abide in Him.
My mental norm, in a word: Restless. The Greek root tarássō (from John 14:27, to be discussed below) adequately conveys this state of mind, which according to HELPS Word-studies (on biblehub.com) can mean the following:
“properly, put in motion (to agitate back-and-forth, shake to-and-fro); (figuratively) to set in motion what needs to remain still (at ease); to “trouble” (“agitate”), causing inner perplexity (emotional agitation) from getting too stirred up inside (“upset”).”
Though I crave pure spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2), it seems I often churn it into butter! I turn God’s Word (and my walk with Him) into a sticky, viscous mess that’s hard to navigate. In lieu of the simplicity of trusting in Him, I revert to complex rules and regulations that stretch my intellect to the max. While my flesh tries to divine the exact ways to act and the exact prayers to pray under a diverse multitude of circumstances, God gives me this simple equation: “You + Me = Success.”
Eirḗnē / Peace & Wholeness
Clearly this hot tub analogy bears a negative connotation. Surely it’s not the state of mind God intended for His children. After all, what did Jesus say in His parting speech to His disciples just prior to His arrest?
“PEACE [Eirēnēn] I leave with you; My peace [eirēnēn] I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be TROUBLED [tarassesthō], nor let it be fearful [deiliatō].” John 14:27
Rather than allowing our minds to be stirred up in agitation, Jesus calls us to manifest the same inner peace He Himself displayed (Mark 4:35-41). The Greek word translated as peace in this verse (eirēnēn) can mean “one, peace, quietness, rest.” HELPS Word-studies (on biblehub.com) says it like this:
“eirḗnē (from eirō, “to join, tie together into a whole”) – properly, wholeness, i.e. when all essential parts are joined together; peace (God’s gift of wholeness).”
Wholeness? I don’t know about you, but that’s not the definition I expected. Nevertheless, even the well-known Hebrew word shalom connotes “completeness” along with soundness, welfare, and peace.
Furthermore, if peace is wholeness, then surely it has no place apart from Him since, from the very beginning, man was made to live in communion with God. Jesus says in His pre-arrest speech, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). But when we’re joined/married with Him (Ephesians 5:31-32)? Then we merge our meager resources with His. Our blindness with His sight. Our weakness with His strength. When our very being—like a branch to a vine—is linked to Him, we’ll find we have all we need.
But what’s the caveat? Remember my thoughts from above?
That simple equation (“You + Me = Success”) paints a picture of wholeness, BUT… it requires humility and trust. The humility to recognize our deficiency as compared with His power. The honesty to recognize our inadequacy apart from Him.
The Path of Understanding?
It seems human nature to equate uncertainty with stress. An uncertain future. Our plans up in the air. Confusion over the path ahead. Or maybe we’re stuck in circumstantial discomfort. This manner of logic presupposes UNDERSTANDING to be the ultimate pathway for finding peace. Isn’t this the way our human brains think?
In ignorance (or arrogance), we believe we can orchestrate our own lives, but Proverbs 20:24 says, “A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?” Likewise, we often think we need to scrutinize our choices before we take that first step, but Proverbs 3:5-6 says to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
In my early graduate school days, newly acquainted with the idea that believers can actually hear from God, I struggled and strived to make His voice a reality in my life. Most of those efforts ended in frustration. In the book I’m reading now about hearing God’s voice, the author expresses his belief that God is always speaking but we don’t often recognize Him as the source.
This reminds me of a time a few months back when I was praying on the way to church one Sunday, interceding for the service and asking God to prepare our hearts for Him—to shake off what could be shaken so we would see Him more clearly (paraphrase). For some reason (in part because He’d unexpectedly prompted me to prophecy in church on a previous Sunday—something I never would’ve imagined myself doing in the past), I asked Him to give me a clear sign if He wanted me to share that prayer with the church. To my surprise, one of the church leaders began the service by announcing we would have an open mic up front for people to share anything God might’ve laid on their heart!
Knowing I would go up, I worshipped for a time in preparation. As sometimes happens, I felt His Spirit with me—a confirmation like a tightening in the gut and a shaking beneath His power, though I wasn’t shaking in fear. For me, He often brings His words in a flurry of fresh writing, but not this time. This time, the writing was a flurry of recollection, remembering the prayer I had prayed in the car. That written message is what I shared. After the service, a number of people told me they believed what I spoke was a genuine word from God.
What amazes me about that experience is that I had no idea those words I was praying were from God. Somehow, I’d been so in touch with His heart that He spoke His words through me without me knowing it. Later, in the midst of my more recent struggles to hear His voice, I wrote this in my journal: “I’ve been so concerned about hearing from God, but hasn’t He shown me that He can so insert Himself into my thoughts that I pray His heart without knowing it? Am I so powerful I can keep God from getting through to me when He knows I WANT to know and do His will?”
Trusting Our Thoughts or Trusting His?
The point in this story (tying it back to Proverbs 3:5-6) is that God didn’t need my intellect and understanding to be engaged at all in order for Him to steer me. Indeed, a reflection on my past proves that God was guiding me all along.
Is it wrong, then, to try and understand our own path?
In general, I would say no—except when our search for understanding leads us to stray from His peace. After all, there will be times in our lives when He hasn’t given us to understand the reasons behind our day-to-day struggles. In those times—even in the fog and seemingly senseless trials; even in those seasons when we’re not confident we’re hearing His voice at all—He wants us to trust in Him because of who He is: All-powerful. Faithful. Merciful. Kind. Always working for our good. (More on His attributes here.)
The real question is this: Do we spend as much time pondering who God is (e.g., worthy of awe) as we do trying to discern our purpose and our future? Do we meditate on our own thoughts and logic more than we meditate on His (John 15:7)? Are we focused more on pointing our compass toward success than aligning our life with His person—His character (Psalm 103:7)?
Interestingly, the word translated as “acknowledge” [yada] in Proverbs 3:5-6 means “to know (by experience); to perceive, see, find out, and discern; to recognize, admit, acknowledge, and confess.” John 17:3 says, “Now this is eternal life: that they KNOW you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
When we know God, truly know Him as He is, we’ll have no difficulty entrusting our lives to Him. Even in periods of silence, though we desperately long for a word from Him, we’ll be able to let go and rest in the knowledge that He is bigger than our concerns—that His presence far surpasses our need for answers. In the silence, as we read His word, obeying Him to the best of our understanding, His peace overcomes our restless thoughts in the knowledge that we’re not alone as orphans. Rather, we have the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, sent from the Father in Jesus’s name to teach us all things and to remind us of everything Jesus said (John 14:26).
In short, peace of mind doesn’t come from reasoning out the logic of our life circumstances while determining the safest pathway ahead; it is born in a relationship of simple trust summed up in this equation: God + Me = Success.
How about you? What topics tend to trip you up? What situations send your thoughts spiraling into a turbulent tailspin? Share in the comments or contact me here for prayer.
If you’re currently stuck in a bubbling-hot-tub mentality, consider making this your prayer:
Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT)
5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
7 My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
8 O my people, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him,
for God is our refuge. Interlude