“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” -Socrates
So I found out yesterday that a saying I thought was original with me, umm… well, isn’t original with me at all! Was looking at inspirational quotes on Pinterest, and there it was!! But not with my name after it. The man who penned it DIED in 399 BC, so he had just a few years on me. So much for that, guess I’ll have to think up another one! Haha.
I’m no Socrates, and my version wasn’t very eloquent, but it went something like this. “If someone doesn’t have joy in their life because they don’t have…you fill in the blank… a husband, a baby, a new house, a high paying job, a nice car, etc; then they won’t have joy in their life, if/when they get it.”
That, or some version of it, my close friends and hubby will recognize as one that I use a lot. To the point of possible overuse, since there’s even a version for Anna Grace. “Honey, if you’re not happy in the house, what makes you think you’ll be happy outside?”
(I guess it’s different when you’re 15 months old, though; because, without fail, she IS happy when taken outside…until she decides she wants to come back inside.)
But for us as Christians, why is it so easy to be discontented when God’s will seems to conflict with our own. Sometimes God says “No” when we think a “Yes” would be in order, and other times He says “Wait.” Too often when we ask God for something, it’s with an attitude of “I want what I want, and I want it now!”
We can’t always see the big picture, but I believe in my life, when God has made me wait for something, or just do without something I thought I needed, it was to help me grow in contentment. If God gives me everything I want, just when I want it, I will never learn contentment. But if I learn to be content and joyful NOW, no matter how things are in my life, then no one can take my joy away from me!
See, I believe that joy and contentment is not something we get once we have everything just right. Joy comes from Jesus, and contentment comes from knowing He will take care of us and provide for our needs!
I have a dear friend who is a prime example of this. She grew up in a home of dysfunction. From little up, she was exposed to emotional, physical and even sexual abuse. In spite of everything she went through, she came through it all, one of the most joyful people I know. Contentment radiates from her, and to be around her, it can’t possibly escape your notice, that Jesus is Lord of her life.
Her attitude is so inspiring to me, but honestly, I’m scared to pray that God will make me more like her, because my flesh doesn’t want to go through the intense refining that she has undergone to get there.
I do think our differing natures may result in some people being more naturally contented than others. Also I think that God chooses our trials in life, to help us learn contentment in those areas we most struggle in.
In my experience it’s been relationships. My friends are truly important to me, and if a relationship is suddenly strained and I don’t know why, I find it hard to rest in knowing that it’s in God’s hands. Even when I have done all that is within my power to do, I struggle to let God have it. I think, if I could only resolve this, and have the friendship back like it was before, then my life would be alright.
God must feel I need work in this area of contentment, because just when I felt like I had gotten past the situation I mentioned in the post, “Forgiveness, Is It Well With Your Soul?” He brought me a similar situation and is testing me again. I can feel that He is walking through it with me, I have peace that I’ve done all I can do. However it works out, I think I can be content and joyful.
He’s teaching me a lesson, and I think that lesson is to let go. Just let go, and let Him do what He will with my life, my friendships, my dreams.
Because, in reality, if my joy and contentment are grounded in Jesus, my life should be “all right” regardless of the state of my earthly friendships. When I’ve done my part in trying to resolve things, and given it to God, there’s nothing more to do but just keep living for Him and rejoicing in my relationship with Him, and in the beautiful, fulfilling Christian friendships I do have. To use my “original” quote on myself: if I’m struggling to be joyful and contented because of strain on an earthly friendship, I probably wouldn’t become that way suddenly if the relationship were to be restored.
This thought just hit me; and I don’t know if you will agree or not. If we cannot find joy and contentment because God is saying “No” or “Wait,” concerning something we deeply desire to have, doesn’t that mean that we are putting that thing between ourselves and God? And doesn’t that classify as an idol?
Maybe that explains why we can have joy in our lives, even in the absence of whatever it is we thought we had to have, when we let it go. The desire for marriage, children, friendships, possessions, financial security, whatever it is that gets between us and God, these we need to recognize as idols, take them to the foot of the cross, and leave them there. Without these obscuring our vision of Him, we can worship Him more fully.
Maybe that’s when He will choose to reveal that He only wanted us to wait and trust Him. But then again, if His final answer is “No,” we will not have so much trouble accepting it, since we’ve already taken down the idols of selfish desire, and focused wholly on worshipping and serving the only One who can give us true contentment and joy.
With His leading, my prayer is that we may all be able to echo the words of Paul, in Phillippians 4:11b: “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
More quotes on contentment:
“Don’t wait til everything is perfect before you decide to enjoy your life.” -Joyce Meyer
“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like, and celebrating it for what it is.” -unknown
“Oh Lord, You are my shepherd, and I should not be in want, but so often I struggle, and I do want; forgetting that You have graciously provided me with every spiritual blessing in Christ, and everything I need for life and godliness.” -Kevin Halloran