We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you something a liiiiittle different…
Instead of digging into another “word for wilderness,” I want to share something that God has been teaching me about these past few months. But first, I have to apologize for being so lax in posting new content.
When I first started this whole blogging thing, I set a goal for myself to post once every other week. Needless to say, life got a little crazy at the end of this last term. But God bless the beautiful soul who came up with the idea for spring break! (Seriously, bless you.) I have a little extra time to sit down and write for fun for a few days, and it’s oh so wonderful.
In spite of the past month’s craziness (and the promise of more craziness to come before graduation), I’ve honestly never felt so much peace about the present and hope for the future. Which leads me to that “something special” I want to share.
“In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment—both to be filled and to go hungry, to have abundance and to suffer need. I can do all things through Messiah who strengthens me.” –Philippians 4:12-13
Last year, on New Year’s Eve, my brother and I braved the cold to watch the locally famous Marietta “square drop” and wrote our resolutions down next to hundreds of others. My resolution: “Learn to be content in every season of life.” No biggie. And certainly not as demanding as ones I’d made in the past, or so I thought.
2017 was a good year—full of new experiences and new (what I hope will be lifelong) friendships. But it was also a difficult year. God stretched me in some very unexpected (and often uncomfortable) ways, so it was a year of tremendous emotional and spiritual growth. Yet in spite of all that, I was still wrestling with God over one very important area of my life. My will.
When I rang in 2018, I’ll be the first to admit that I was anything but content with how life was going. I was dissatisfied in my job. (Let’s face it. Childcare can be a thankless and tedious field to work in even on the best of days.) I was over school. (I’ve had senioritis since kindergarten.) Not to mention, I was beyond frustrated with the way things were looking for me in the romance department. (At that point, singlehood seemed more like a death sentence than a blessing.)
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” –1 Thessalonians 5:18
What I hadn’t anticipated that New Year’s Eve, when I committed to learning how to be “content in every season of life,” was that God would take me up on that challenge. And the lesson began with me dying to my will. Because how could I be content with where God had me if I was still holding on to my expectations for where I “needed” to be?
Up until a couple of months ago, the suggestion to “give thanks in all circumstances” was one piece of advice I was all too happy to ignore. Why? Um, have you ever tried to be content when everything you thought you wanted was going up in smoke? (Disclaimer: It’s NOT easy.) Now, discontentment, that’s easy. Walking through life grumbling and complaining? Easy peasy. I used to do it everyday without fail and twice on Sundays. (Honestly, I should’ve collected a paycheck for complaining, I was so good.)
We humans are naturally inclined to put ourselves first, and that’s exactly what discontentment requires of us. It is, for all intents and purposes, self-focused. But contentment? That’s another ballgame.
Contentment requires us to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances and focus on God. This is a tall order in today’s me-centric society. When the message of entitlement seems to permeate every fiber of our culture, blaring from every outlet at once, it can be tempting to buy into the lie that “I am all that matters.” But when we take our focus off of ourselves and what we want and think we need, and turn our focus to God—and what He desires for us—contentment is a natural result.
One way that the Lord really brought this lesson to life for me was through the example of Adam. Before God brought Eve into his life, it was just Adam and God. And, try as I might, I can’t find any mention of Adam being dissatisfied with his living situation. I mean, living in a paradisiacal garden with the God of the universe sounds pretty fantastic to me. I don’t know about you…
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'” –Genesis 2:18
But this was what really got me: God decided when Adam needed a helper. Not Adam. Adam didn’t know what he was missing until God brought it to him! He was content to live his life just as he always had—tending to the garden, caring for the animals, and living in constant fellowship with his Father. But in that place of contentment, God met Adam’s need before he even realized he had one.
Contentment rests in the promise of God’s ability to supply our needs as they arise. Contentment means that we put our faith in His faithfulness to accomplish His will in our lives. I think this is what Paul was referring to when he shared the secret of contentment with the Philippians: “I can do all things through Messiah who strengthens me.” When He is our source of strength, there’s no reason to wallow in self-pity when things go south or wear ourselves out trying to meet our own expectations, because the end result isn’t up to us. It’s up to Him.
I won’t pretend that I’ve mastered the art of contentment. It’s something I have to work on every day. But I can tell you one thing I think I’ve finally figured out: It pays to be content. In every season. In every situation. In every moment. In everything.