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Posts Tagged ‘Discontent’

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  in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. –the Apostle Paul, Philippians 4:11-13

wind-treeContentment is so fragile, so subjective. If we truly desire to be content no matter our circumstances, or believe we’ve achieved it, soon something comes along to test this resolve. I can’t resolve to be content. And I’m tired of faking it.
I often see verse 13 plucked out of this paragraph, and yes, while always true, the apostle is specifically saying we need help to be perpetually content in every situation. The fact that Paul makes a point to say he needs God’s strength to achieve this tells me that continual contentment is important to have and yet impossible to achieve alone.

I live in a world that constantly tempts me to desire comfort and ease as a replacement for contentment, and it is quick to tell me what it will take. The latest fashion trend (which appears to be 90s Grunge at the moment-ehh, no thanks). Newer furniture. Bigger home. Perfect body. A newer-faster-cooler car. The latest app to make life easier. Healthier junk food. Stress-free relationships-job-commute-vacation-etc.

Deficiency or pain or discomfort or unrest or disunity or human imperfections (ours AND others’) will always be with us. ALWAYS. Contentment is going to need to be more deeply felt, more firmly established, less apt to be plucked away the moment something goes wrong.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
(She) will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer. 17:7-8

What shakes your sense of contentment? I confess that for me, and more lately as I am “feeling” age gaining, it doesn’t take much. How do you respond to adversity, or a rough day at work/home/with kids? Boneheads on the road? (um, I’ve never seen any…) Unsatisfactory customer service? Mind-numbing political rhetoric? Facebook feed? How long does it take for you to turn from the source and reach deeper for the Source, for the Lord’s strength and larger eternal perspective, for peace that passes understanding in the midst of discontent?

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I recently thumbed through a 10+ year old journal expecting to be entertained, if nothing else.

Good grief. IRS instructions are more riveting.

The pages were filled with tedious moping about all the things I longed to change about myself. On and on and on, like a broken record. Just skimming over that stuff now is depressing.

Journaling is healthy, of course. I’m all for it, especially when it comes to keeping track of answered prayer and God’s faithfulness—that’s important to remember. But some journaling, while good for getting gunk off your chest, is just self-centered, navel-gazing pathos (yeah, I know, it’s probably just mine). What I find sad about those years is how long I pined for change—to be a slimmer woman, a holier Christian, kinder mom, more pleasing wife, truer friend, etc. How sad that I clung to such a singular focus for so long, especially when the journals show no indication I ever arrived at the changes I so desperately sought.

At some point I quit journaling. Maybe I finally got fed up with the monotony of repeating myself and the despair of continual failure. Who has time or energy to change when you spend all your time in front of the mirror cataloguing all your flaws?

Actually, I think God finally lured me away from such a self-centered focus. I think he wanted me to stop believing lies about who I was supposed to be, and start making the most of what I have right now. Begin accepting who I am, cellulite and all. Embrace the gifts and interests and purposes God placed in me when he made me. ME, not some air-brushed, magazine cover girl.

I haven’t journaled in well over a decade now. Looking back, I can see many positive changes that have occurred over time. Quiet, lasting changes that came after I gave up trying to bully that unhappy woman into being someone else. Somewhere along the line, God gave me a truckload of patience. And grace. And a great peace in knowing that “he makes all things beautiful in its time.” (Ecc. 3:11)

Maybe it’s a Rapidly Nearing Five-O thing, but now I find the things I stressed about for so long don’t really matter all that much. What matters to me now is to live and love people today instead of putting it off. Listen more. Pray more. Care more about what Jesus thinks and less about what people think. See eternity in every moment. Live each day like a heaven-bound soul.

Q: What about you—have you ever needed to let go of some elusive longing in order to embrace life now?

 

 

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I want a Kindle Fire.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m not one to run out and jump on the latest trend or pine over the newest gadget. But the Kindle Fire is cool – like an iPad for half the bucks. One of those would be nice. I could see saving my pennies and getting one someday. And I’m cool with someday. Or I was until I looked around and realized EVERYONE has one. I am not kidding. Grannies. Old guys who don’t even use cell phones. Kids. LITTLE kids. Triplet toddlers, each one drooling on their own.

I’m a little disgruntled about this. Yes, I could scrape up $200 meant for something more important and just get one and leave envy behind, have my toy and be happy like Grannie and the droolers. Or I could quit wishing I had something cool just because others have it, listen to the wisdom of the Apostle Paul and cultivate contentment.

Okay, Paul wasn’t talking about gadgets, so let’s get real.  This is about a spiritual state, a calm in the midst of a storm, resting in peace when circumstances stir up anything but peace. Loss of a loved one. Health issues. True shortage, like a job loss. A broken relationship.

Recently, I shared some thoughts on contentment with our Wednesday night Bible class and asked people what it would take for them to feel content. Absence of stress? More money? Less poundage? Better friends? A more understanding mate?

Unfortunately, putting all our expectations or our need for fulfillment on people or stuff or circumstances will lead to discontent because eventually circumstances will go awry, or our health will fail, or people will let us down. The only one who won’t fail us is Jesus. He’s the only one who gives us what can’t be taken away.

We live in a world that breeds discontent. Think about magazine ads, movies, TV, commercials. Advertising is carefully designed to make us unhappy with everything we have: our job, wardrobe, figure, finances, car, spouse, home. You name it: anything you have, marketing pros are hard at work to convince you it’s not good enough.

When discontent is allowed to thrive, we find ourselves becoming resentful and dissatisfied and if that goes on, it leads to depression. Not only that, it can lead to something far more serious. Satan feeds on our discontent because it’s contrary to God’s design. God in his love and and artistry created us to experience joy and delight, and ultimately, He wants us to find our joy and delight in Him. Remember the Garden of Eden? Satan suggested to Eve that God was holding out something better from her, planting a seed of discontent in her heart. Discontent is really the fruit of something else:

Distrust. 

Sadly, God is so faithful and doesn’t deserve that. When we grumble and complain about our situation or what we don’t have, it’s like we’re accusing God of not taking care of us, or saying he doesn’t really know what we need. Eve’s discontent led her to sin. And we are in danger of the same.

God is always good and always trustworthy. We may not understand what’s going on when we’re in a tough spot, but we can always trust that God will do what’s right. He promises to provide for us. He also knows what we face. He knows all about evil bosses and stubborn kids and imperfect mates and overdue bills and health problems and all the things that we can’t control. He knows where we are and he’s not a bit surprised.

Just a thought to consider: in our turmoil, we might be exactly where he wants us. And no matter where we are—even if we’re in prison like Paul—the Word of God calls us to be content.

Let’s look at Philippians 4:4-13

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13I can do all things  through Him who strengthens me.

At the time Paul wrote this, he was a prisoner in a Roman jail. Probably not the most ideal situation. Yet he was content. Where did his contentment come from? Political popularity? Living the American dream? A competitive retirement package? No. Go back a chapter and look at Phil 3:7-8.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.  

Paul found his greatest gain, his greatest treasure in knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. He didn’t blame anyone for his circumstances. He found peace with his lot in life no matter what his life looked like.

With or without a Kindle Fire.

How are you doing? Do you battle with discontent? Have you ever dealt with the depression that comes from being in those hard circumstances outside your control? If so, have you been able to overcome it?

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