See July 13th entry. Life threw a curve on June 2nd when I discovered we had to move and the wonderful relaxing summer I had planned would consist of packing and figuring out where to go next.
Life can be so hard. Life can be so frustrating. Life can be so …..life! We all face disappointments, delays, setbacks, financial woes, etc. but that’s part of life! The issue is not that life is going to be hard as that is certain but how will we respond when it is hard and we are thrown a curve. Will we respond with bitterness and upset or will we exude contentment- with calmness, cheerfulness/joy, and peaceful acceptance? Contentment doesn’t come naturally nor is it easily learned. In fact Paul said “I have learned to be content in Philippians 4:11” Contentment is a process that one must desire to learn. Would you like to live a life that isn’t dictated by your circumstances? Would you like to be able to say as Paul did I too have learned to be content? Or be able to say, Psalms 131:2 MSG I’ve kept my feet on the ground; I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content
As I have learned to be content I’ve allow God to pry my fingers open to let go and let God. I am today freer from worry, fear, and insecurity experiencing more joy as I learn to trust my heavenly Father – and trust “my world” into His control. Life will disappoint us sometimes, but our Heavenly Father never will. No matter what life may bring, for the believer there is a happy ending in store. Contentment begins with God, and His unfailing love for us. When we are satisfied by His love, our joy will last for the rest of our lives. Psalms 90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Our control robs us as when we take over and try to control what happens, we take our focus off the One who is in control and put our eyes on our circumstances. As we place our focus on the one who is in control of all things and is king over all then contentment is possible. Read with me 1Timothy 6:15 God is the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters.
J.I. Packer says “Contentment is essentially a matter of accepting from God’s hand what He sends because we know that He is good and therefore it is good.” Contentment is accepting God’s sovereign control over all of life’s circumstances. It’s easy to accept the good in our life but if God is sovereign than we must be willing to accept the negative also. Let me share four lessons I have learned traveling the road to contentment.
1) First lesson I have learned contentment is a choice on how we look at life. 1 Timothy 6:6
But godliness with contentment is great gain.
Do you see contentment as great gain? I think that Paul is reminding us that we really don’t need anything to have contentment as we came into the world with nothing and we will leave this world with nothing.
7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
Linda Dillow in her book Calm My Anxious Heart wrote: Two women looked through prison bars
One saw mud, the other saw stars. Our choice is will we focus on the mud or lift our eyes and see the stars? We all have the circumstances that appear to be prison bars.
EXAMPLE: we sold our dream house to finance Jon’s company a little over 6 years ago. This was to be only for a few year but three moves later we are still leasing. This weekend we will be going from a 3,000 sqft house to a 1333 apartment. I choose to view this as an opportunity to draw closer as a family as the bigger the house the more spread out and off alone upstairs the older girls. They will be gone before I know it we get to live like we are on vacation for the next two month or until God directs us to our new home.
2) Second lesson to contentment is found in changing the way you see the situations – looking at the bright side or finding the silver lining. A few foundational truths that have helped my outlook are found in:
A) Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future You can be content with your life and your future knowing God has plans for your life and He has given you hope. Our family clings to this truth and we have it hung on our wall as a reminder.
B) Your perspective on how you view life is better when you remember that even your trials have a purpose in your spiritual growth. Your perspective makes all the difference in the world and it influences how you respond to problems. Is the glass half empty or half full. Let’s look at James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Also 2 Corinthians 4: 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
There is nothing that happens in life by accident. My life has been transformed mostly because of the hardships and trials of life. Life is a series of trials. Every time you solve one, another is waiting to take its place. Not all are big but all are significant in God’s growth process for us. Trails draw us closer to God. I desire that God uses each situation to conform to His imagine and teach me to be content. On this side of heaven nothing will ever be perfect. We are to be faithful in circumstances we find ourselves. Trails are a test of our resolve. Trails strengthen our character and can glorify God is we allow them to.
3) The third lesson I have learned is that the journey to content is a two part process. I am responsible for my part and God will be faithful with His part. Turn with me to Philippians 4:4-9. I will go verse by verse and lay out the various parts.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Our part is seen in v. 4- 6
o Do not be anxious or (worry)
o Give thanks
I find it amazing that Paul begins this exhortation saying to rejoice not once but twice. When Paul wrote this he wasn’t living the carefree life you might expect. He was in prison, had been beaten and was alone. Not the American life of comfort but yet he said he had learned to be content, tells us to rejoice and not worry. The secret of contentment is Christ in us, not us in a different set of circumstances. Our anxiety should be the very thing that gets us on our knees to pray specifically as well as with thanksgiving.
What is worry? “to strangle” or “to choke off” and that is exactly what worry and fear in the mind does; it chokes off the creative flow from above.
Worry is a route which leads from somewhere to nowhere. Don’t let it direct your life. Take God’s advice found in 1 Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
What a comforting promise. As believers why worry as scriptures tells us we have a God who is our refuge, strength, He will meet our every need and is there when we need him, He is our hiding place and so much more. ( Ps 9:9, 32:7, 46:1-3; Phil 4:19)
George Muller said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith. The beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” True as when we worry aren’t we saying “God you can’t” If we are walking in anxiety we’re not walking in faith.
Let me differentiate between anxiety and depression as I learned from Minirty and Meir clinic. Anxiety is linked more often to the future, “What if” and depression is past focused. So anxiety is a mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of real or imagined danger or misfortune. Anxiety causes us to react when necessary [a child running into the path of an oncoming car – anxiety is good as we react to protect the child] but how much time and energy is wasted over perceived danger? Jon’s company might never sale, our financial situation will not get better, we will not be able to pay for the girls college or weddings, I or my children might have cancer, etc… by the way the girls are both in college one with a full scholarship given by a friend and the other one has most of her school paid.
A French philosopher Montaigne said “My life has been filled with such terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.”
Other quotes/stories I like are:
- Worry is like a rocking chair it gives you something to do but gets you know where.
- “Fear and worry are interest paid in advance on something you may never own.” i.e. There’s a story that is told about a woman who was standing on a street corner crying profusely. A man came up to her and asked why she was weeping. The lady shook her head and replies: “I was just thinking that maybe someday I would get married. We would later have a beautiful baby girl. Then one day this child and I would go for a walk along this street, come to this corner and my darling daughter would run into the street, get hit by a car, and die.”
Sounds silly but isn’t this the way we often respond when we worry? We take a situation or event which might never exist and build it up all out of proportion in our mind. I did the very thing this past May as I had to have gall bladder surgery and I let my mind drift to not waking from the surgery, leaving behind Jon and the girls, to the point I had tears as I wrote in each of the love journals. Contentment is ultimately a shift in attitude than a change in circumstances.
More importantly anxiety and worry are wrong and sinful because of reasons given above (lack of faith and trust). Also Jesus commands us not to worry 5 times alone in Matthew 6:25-34 Worry is a faith problem – as we do not trust God when we worry. It is our duty and privilege to rejoice in God, and to rejoice in him always; at all times, in all conditions; even when we suffer for him, or are afflicted by him. 1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
God’s part is seen in v. 7
The good news is if we pray instead of worrying we will experience God’s peace. So if you feel anxious and fearful vs. being content ask yourself have you done your part (are we rejoicing, praying, and praying with thanksgiving?) It’s easier said than done. I know first handed as there have been many times that I would follow this formula and my mind still dwells on the “what ifs” “whys” or “if onlys” of a circumstance. In fact as I prepare for this I’ve prayed many times this month and these past years for the potential buyer of BiM to make an offer and my days have turned into weeks, months and years and we still have no offer. However, when I choose to pray vs. worry about our future financial situation or whether BiM will be bought I experience peace. EXAMPLE – last Friday when we finally heard from the potential buyer it was not the price we had hoped for, not the time frame, thus we have months of waiting ahead of us with great uncertainty. Share about walk, talk, and then prayer time together and as family as the peace we all experienced.
4) The fourth lesson I have learn is that when the peace begins to dissipate I choose to “REMEMBER” the promises of God and His past goodness to me. The best way to survive life when a curve is thrown your direction is to remember who God is and what He has done in the past for you. Psalm 77:11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. And Jonah 2:7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. This year I started a study on how often we are told to remember in scripture. I have been surprised by the number of times I have circled the word remember and I will remember in my bible.
Deut. 8:18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
Deut. 8:2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
Each year in writing I summarize our high and low points of the year. As milestones or answered pray is realized I write them down in form a thank you. You know what I’ve realized? When we are in the midst of a storm or dark period it is hard to remember the many blessings we have experienced thus the importance of writing them down.
Continuing on with Our Part as seen in v. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
- Maintain a positive thought life.
One verse has done more to transform my life than any other and is found in Proverbs 23:7 As a man think in his heart so is he. Our thought life has such an incredible impact on us. In Romans 12:2 we are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. So what exactly is excellent or praiseworthy? I hold before you a love letter filled with wonderful promises found starting in Genesis all the way to Revelation. This is what we need to dwell on as it is the remedy for discontent.
Our part and God’s part in v.9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
- (our part) We have to practice what we have learned and heard
- (God’s part) God’s peace will be with us.
When I hear the word practice I think about something you have to do over and over to learn and become proficient at and this is true with contentment for as we practice peace and content will follow. It is then we can say in any circumstance that it is well with my soul.
Paul tells us we are to practice “these things,” it is our choice to
- Give our anxieties to God
- Pray specifically
- Pray with thanksgiving
- Dwell on the positives.
So do you practice substituting prayer for worry, positive for negative thought life, and are you experiencing the God of peace? It’s your choice to practice these things.