Lessons on Contentment
I've been working on my session for our camp ladies retreat and today I kept being reminded how important contentment is in our lives. I turn thirty-three tomorrow, and I often think back over the past year and how God has grown me and shaped me. I think a big part of growing in our lives is learning to be content. It's so easy to always think, "if only" or "when I get there" or "when I have that"...then I'll be happy and content. But the reality is that if we are counting on our circumstances to provide contentment, we will always end up miserable in the long run. Life is hard. It just is. We are busy, things rarely go like we think they will, people hurt us, we could easily live in constant disappointment. We might finally get what we think we have to have, only to realize that the paradise we thought it would be doesn't exist. I came across this quote today- "If contentment is learned by resting in what we cannot see (God), discontentment results from seeking rest in physical things." In my short 33 years of life, God has shown me over and over again that if I'm not satisfied in Him, I never will be. It's not an easy thing to learn, and I'm still working on it FOR SURE.
As we learn to give up our wants and desires for His, it's amazing to see how God molds our hearts. He often uses very painful circumstances to show us the flaws in the things we put our trust in. Sometimes we think if we have a nice house, a husband, a child, a new job, etc, THEN we will be happy. But when we do receive those things, they end up proving to be a lot of work and not the paradise we once thought, and ultimately, they prove to be just broken cisterns- things we are trying to fill the hole in our hearts that only God can fill. They may be good things, but if we are trying to put those things in the place of God, we will always be disappointed. There are many things in our lives that are truly good and do bring joy, but if it is becoming an idol or something we "have to have" then that's where we have gone wrong.
I think the big thing we need to remember is that if we are not content in the present, we are deceived to think that we will be content with a change of circumstances. What we need is a change of heart. Before we start looking for the next new thing to satisfy our longing hearts whether it is a person, place, or thing, we need to desperately pray that God would change our hearts and make us completely satisfied only in Him, exactly where we are right now. We have to ask for His grace, because in our flesh, we can never do it. There are several very big life decisions that I have almost made, but once I thought about the reasons I was making them, I realized they were selfish and born out of discontentment with my present circumstances. lt's always humbling to realize that, but it's so much better to realize ahead of time then to make the wrong decision and regret it later. Once I began to seek to make Christ the center of my life, and not myself, it was amazing to see how He helped me to have complete joy and contentment, even though the circumstances didn't necessarily change.
God is a gracious God and can redeem even our filthy, selfish hearts. So we don't have to be discouraged when we see the sins of discontentment and pride growing in our hearts. Instead, we should ask God for the grace to fully trust Him and fully be content, exactly where He has placed us. Is everything good in our present circumstances? Of course not! We were never promised that life would be all good. But each thing that is in our lives is something that can draw us closer to God if we let it. When hard things happen or things don't go our way, we need to cling to Christ and seek Him, instead of grow bitter and discontent and seek for the quickest way out. I pray that the older I get, the more God will give me the grace to be content exactly where He has placed me in life.