Christian Contentment

I have a friend that for ten years, had been the embodiment of all that a godly friend should be. She was not just the hands and feet of Christ to me, but the heart and mind of Christ. She was, and continues to be, Truth to me and for me.

A few years ago her husband’s job moved her away. When she told me they were moving to another state I immediately cried. For three days my heart just ached. I was sort of praying and sort of bemoaning her move when I realized I sounded like I was mourning her death. Like she was gone forever and never again would I be able to see her.

God granted some insight into that moment for me and showed me how foolish, indeed how ungrateful I was behaving. Was it a sad thing that my friend would not be here close by? Yes. But my goodness, I have face timed with another friend that was living in Japan! Susan would only be five hours away…we have phones, and we can text, email and even slap a stamp on an envelop and as old fashioned as it may be, mail letters to each other.

Is it sad that I do not see her everyday as we drop off and pick up our children from school or have the occasional breakfast together? Yes. But not only have I been given the gift of her friendship but I live in a time of great technology that will allow us to continue our friendship almost undisturbed.

The whole situation with my friend showed me how spoiled I am to some very simple and convenient aspects of my life.

It’s like complaining about what a pain doing laundry is when I am doing it in the comfort of my cooled or heated home and basically tossing clothes from one machine into another. I’m not outside washing them by hand and hanging them on the line to dry. And I have so much laundry because God has been abundant in His provision for my family. Of course I have a lot of laundry…He has granted me five children!

Later today I will do my grocery shopping. Normally I can begrudge the process of picking food up off the shelf, placing it into the buggy, going to a register, unloading all the groceries, picking up bags of groceries and putting them back into the buggy so I can go out to my car and unload them from the buggy just so that I can get home and unload them from the car and carry them into my house and take everything out of the bags and put it all away.

But to complain would seem to despise the gift of having not only plenty of food to eat but the ability to go to a store and get a buggy full of groceries so my family can eat in the first place.

It would show a heart that is ungrateful. It is the same with my laundry and my friend moving away and any number of ways I could so easily find to complain. It’s easy to find things to complain about.  I love this quote from Nancy Wilson’s book Learning Contentment,  “Discontent requires no learning, no teaching, and no practice because we are born wanting things, and we are born knowing how to grumble, murmur, and complain.”

It takes work and effort to fight against complaining and being ungrateful. But the more we practice being grateful the easier it becomes. And the really great thing about it? It’s hard for others to stay grumpy and whiny when faced with a person who genuinely practices contentment and being grateful. We are drawn to happy people and we enjoy being around them.

Going into a new week with these thoughts fresh in my mind I am reminded of the old hymn This Is My Father’s World.

This is my father’s world.

Why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is king, let the heavens ring.

God reigns, let the earth be glad.

The writer of that hymn, Presbyterian minister Maltbie Davenport Babcock, also wrote this gem of wisdom:

We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,

We have hard work to do, and loads to lift, 

Shun not the struggle; face it;

Tis God’s gift.

So whatever hard work you have to face this day or the next be encouraged to look for the good of God’s providence in it. Even in the muck and mire He is King.

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Being Content

A few weeks ago our oldest daughter was accepted into the nursing program she had applied to. There were more than a few tears of thankfulness and great rejoicing all around. The weeks of waiting ended in a pleasant and longed for result. But what if she hadn’t been accepted? She had not one but two different contingency plans in place and more importantly she had her head and mind in the right place. She was prepared to submit to a different outcome.

In her book, Virtuous, Nancy Wilson shares that her mother-in-law defined Christian contentment as a deep satisfaction with the will of God. This is more, far more, than a grin and bear it attitude. It is much more than a waiting for my ship to come in outlook. True contentment is more than a Pollyanna-esque belief that if God closes one door He will open a window.
Deep satisfaction.
A complete acceptance of circumstances. 
An abiding trust when it just doesn’t make sense.
It’s the bloom of faith in the midst of hard disappointing circumstances. And that sort of faith doesn’t just happen. I mean it’s easy for us to be content and fine when the lines are falling for us in pleasant places. And that’s okay. We should be happy and thankful when God is pouring a blessing upon our head.

But true contentment isn’t the lovely wildflowers that spring up across a field. They’re the flower on the cactus blooming among the sharps points and barbs.

That kind of contentment hard fought and won and often times we are even unwilling to see and accept it in others. If a young mother never complains about difficulties with her little ones we assume she doesn’t have any. Or we assign some kind of super next level faith to her.
The woman who never speaks ill of her husband is looked upon as being married to a perfect man and having a perfect life. In actuality she has learned that complaining and whining doesn’t make her burdens any lighter but rather heavier.
That deep satisfaction with God’s will grows in the soil of submission, watered by prayer and fertilized with God’s word.

We have to be willing to wrestle through our own discontentment, pain and hurt, plans and agenda. We have to dig in and believe that His timing is perfect and that what He designs for us is far more perfect and good for us than anything we could come up with on our own.

Only then can we say along with Paul that no matter what situation we find ourselves in we are content.