The man or woman who has learned contentment, is usually marked by a peace that passes all human understanding. Have you ever met one of these stunning people? They usually make you feel extremely selfish and silly for complaining about your woes, upon finding out what they are dealing with.
I look at the people in my life who are enduring incredibly harsh circumstances and am amazed at the peace they posses. The little boy with crippled hands who sings, “My hands belong to You, Lord!” The woman who lost her husband in a car accident, left alone with two small boys, who still proclaims that she has been blessed by God. Through their trial they say, “It is well with my soul.” Through their time of pain and disappointment they are saying, “I still love Him.” Through their season of barrenness they still believe, “He is enough for me.” There is no bitterness or anger at the “cards they’ve been dealt,” just an inner peace, even when the storm outside is raging. They know to Whom they belong, and not even tragedy or disappointment can steal their peace and resting place.
These are extreme circumstances of people who have overcome incredible situations. They are heros of the faith and absolutely stunning people. But can those in “lesser” situations be just as heroic in their responses? What about the boring, mundane seasons – can God use them to make us just as beautiful? Think about the heroes in your life. Who are they and what do they look like? Does one need to be on the front lines in order to be heroic and brave, or can one be just as heroic behind the scenes? My “behind the scenes” heros are joyful mothers of children. Mothers who are not frazzled and frustrated but calm and loving; even when the house is a mess and the kids are up late. What is this woman’s secret and how does she do it? Anyone who is achieving something great has started out by passing smaller tests in life. Soldiers train before entering battle and so has every person who is enduring difficult seasons. The heart that is training for godliness is behind the scenes learning contentment, while the discontented heart is constantly searching for something more.
It is not the position of our life that provides us with peace and contentment; it is far more the position of our heart.
The discontented girl has trouble being still. “Her feet abide not in her house.” (Proverbs 7:11) Something always needs to be distracting her, keeping her moving. She is easily bored, and doesn’t like to be reminded of her current situation. So she seeks diversion elsewhere. Discontentment is a product of unhappiness with her life. But no matter what she finds, it will never be enough to keep her happy and content for long. This girl doesn’t need a new set of circumstances to make her happy; she needs a joy that will not be dependent on outward circumstances.
These are not always “worldly” girls. They can be Christian girls, too. I was one of those girls at a certain point. As much as I loved being home, used of God to serve my family, I was always on the lookout for an opportunity to be used elsewhere. I’m a girl who loves adventure, the more exciting and exotic the better; I love a good challenge. And lets face it, according to many – home is… boring. (Unless your idea of adventure is washing dishes five times a day, and a good challenge is how many loads of laundry you can fold before making dinner!) But God had to teach me what was really important to Him. The Lord knew I longed to serve Him; yet He knew I didn’t fully see how being content right where He had me actually was serving Him. God knew there were things He needed to teach me through the dirty dishes and piles of laundry. When my friends were out doing the real exciting things, He knew I had to learn the value of being content with doing little things for His eyes alone. DL Moody observed, “There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.” There are many busy, productive people who appear to be serving God. But there are few who are willing to sit at His feet and learn who their Lord is.
I’ve had to learn that God is more concerned about who I am being for Him, more than what I am doing for Him. When my ache to show the world Jesus wanted to make me feel discontent with the “unexciting” season I was in, I had to learn that godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6) I now see how God has used each season of obscurity to bring me into a deeper place of knowing Him in secret. Because of precious lessons learned in secret, I can now openly serve my Jesus better. And the practice I had learning contentment in a hidden season, has served me well whenever I am faced with a new temptation to be discontented.
What if we viewed every trial, every set-back and every painful experience as an opportunity to know Jesus better?
“For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11,12)
So often we look at our unhappy circumstances and think, “When this season is over, then I will be happy.” We foolishly believe that our lack of contentment is linked to our uncomfortable circumstances. How untrue this is! If you are a discontented, unfulfilled single woman, what will stop you from becoming a discontented and miserable married woman? It is not the position of our life that provides us with peace and contentment; it is far more the position of our heart.
Lack of contentment is often due to lack of purpose. It is so easy to become bored or unhappy in our work, school, or situation if we fail to embrace the very reason God placed us there in the first place. Without the hope of gaining something as a result of a rough season, we will have a hard time staying happy and content. But what if we viewed every trial, every set-back and every painful experience as an opportunity to know Jesus better?
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Philippians 3:10)
I can tell you, that this is the only way someone like the woman who lost her husband could continue to say, “I am blessed.” She found purpose through her grief. Instead of allowing bitterness and anger to overcome her, she allowed her suffering and loss to bring her to a deeper place of winning Christ.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” (Philippians 3:7)
If the very purpose of our life is to know and be known by Jesus, we will be able to appreciate even the most mundane, boring, painful season we’re in as an opportunity to know Him. Where there is purpose, there is contentment. This is the peace that passes understanding when enduring seasons of pain and loss, or times of obscurity and being alone. It is unthinkable to those around us; it is strange to people who do not know the beauty of contentment.
If Jesus truly is your portion in this life, you will always be comforted – even when life isn’t going the way you wish it were.
Be reminded that Jesus Himself, knows what it feels like to be in a season of obscurity. Before picking up the cross on which He died, He had another cross to bear: learning obedience through the things that He suffered. Before His ministry began, Jesus was a lowly carpenter. From the time He was a boy until His appearing, He was tucked away learning a layman’s trade. Did Jesus ever look at His life as a carpenter’s son, and wish to be elsewhere? I’m sure He longed for the day He would begin His ministry. But Jesus understood that the purpose of His life was not only to die, but to live a life pleasing to His Father in Heaven – even in secret.
Discontentment leaves a wide open door to the spirit of envy, hatred and bitterness. If you find yourself daydreaming about a distant season, examine your heart. Is it because you are failing to embrace the current season being given to you? If you are someone who needs distraction and has a hard time settling into one place for a period of time, ask yourself if it is because you’re failing to embrace the purpose for that season. If you find yourself becoming bored and restless, see if its not due to envying other people and what they’re doing. It is so important in learning contentment not to compare yourself with others; covetousness always leads to discontentment. Purpose in your heart to say: “I will not covet or envy what others have and I do not. I will not murmur against the Lord for what He has given someone else and not to me. I will not pine away for another day when today is where God has me.”
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. “(Hebrews 13:5)
If Jesus truly is your portion in this life, you will always be comforted – even when life isn’t going the way you wish it were. We must ask ourselves the very moment we begin to feel restless or unhappy, “Is He enough for me?” Do not be afraid of being without anything or anyone in this life. Fear being without the presence and rulership of Jesus. If you must be discontent, be discontent with how much you know Him. If you are to be covetous, covet more godliness. If you are unhappy, let it be with the sin in your life.
Everyone, in every stage of life will face the challenge to be content. It is not something learned one time and then never faced with again. All throughout your life, you will be presented with new opportunities to find your satisfaction and purpose in Jesus. I encourage you to start learning now, in whatever situation God has you in. Let it be an opportunity to sit still and learn what He has for you learn in that season. It is often in the hidden places, that God speaks to us the most.
A baby is the perfect picture of someone who is content. Why? Because a baby is utterly dependent upon the parents to take care of all her needs. A baby is free from worry, anxiety and the cares of this world. All that baby needs to know is that she will be taken care of by mommy and daddy. Even when that baby is uncomfortable and crying, she knows that mom will fix the problem and bring relief. And so it should be for every person who has put their life into the capable hands of Father God. Even when in a season of trial, as His child we can know that He will bring comfort and purpose amidst our pain.
May you be a heroic lady marked by the beauty of peace and contentment, able to embrace each new season no matter what it brings, just happy to belong to Jesus!
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1