I'm going to begin with a few selected quotes from Mike's article, as he explores the "gift" of contentment in our Christian lives.
He writes: "We must follow Jesus instead of doing what we want. We must become content with who we are and what our circumstances are. He will teach us how to suffer and sorrow for His glory. We must see all suffering before our Lord as sweet pain. Those who learn to endure will emerge purified, humble, and selfless. With each patient victory, Christ-likeness grows. He will teach us how to be content through it all. When our hearts become circumcised and we become Spirit-led we take a huge step in becoming selfless. We must ask God to develop this wonderful gift of contentment in us. Ask God to show you how selfless you are. "
"What is the key to developing a selfless heart? The key is total submission to Christ’s Lordship. We must give it all up. We must not cling to any of that old worldly stuff. Our fulfillment must come from our relationship with our Lord and from NO WHERE else." (Let me type Mike's last line again, this time in bold text): "Our fulfillment must come from our relationship with our Lord and from NO WHERE else."
Oh, what a profound truth my brother Mike presents here. The last sentence could expand the topic to include not just our sufferings, but longings and desires, as well....but why is the concept so hard to grasp? Or on second thought, maybe it's not a failure to grasp, maybe it's an unwillingness to let go. (Oh my, I think I may be on to something, here). To hold on too tight to the things that we need to loosen our grips on......specifically.......desires or dreams, i.e.: I want this, I want that, and I want them now. (Or at least a glimpse of hope that I'll get them someday).
Are we prone, in our shallow humanness, to sometimes view discontentment in itself as a trial, or as a time of suffering? I think we can find ourselves guilty of that mentality. Do we find ouselves thinking, on occasion, "Is this it? Is this all there is? Have I reached the pinnacle? Have I 'peaked' in this life?"
As we explore this, let's consider the word "content," and all its variations (i.e., "contented," "contentment.") How would you define them? What do they mean to you? A nice house? A good job? Watching a beautiful sunset? Kids who never get in any sort of trouble? A good book & a warm, cozy fire on a cold winter night? A perfect spouse who constantly gives you their undivided attention? A great vacation? Enjoying an elegant meal at an expensive restaurant? Relaxing with relatives after a delicious Thanksgiving meal? A peaceful, starlit night? Drifting on a float in your own swimming pool? A tall glass of lemonade on a warm summer night? What does true "contentment" consist of? Paul told Timothy that he would be content with food for his stomach, and clothes for his back.....merely the very basic necessities of life would be sufficient for his contentment.
"6Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7for we brought nothing into the world, and[a] we cannot take anything out of the world. 8But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
Let's say that you are experiencing a season of discontentment, and you are viewing it as a fiery trial or time of suffering. What do the scriptures have to say about it? Paul suggests in the book of Romans that we should view our sufferings as a time for rejoicing. "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." (Romans 5:3-4). He went on to say in the 8th chapter, that we should not dwell on our sufferings: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18) In James, we are implored to count trials as joy: "2Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4) So, rejoice in them, be content in them, count them a joy, and then move on. Don't wallow in your sorrow.
Mike closed his article with the following prayer, which I think is one we can all relate to:
"Please burn away all of us that is not of You. Give us the grace to submit and patiently endure the sweet pain. Do not take away the pain Lord, but give us the ability to endure it for your glory. In Jesus precious name Amen!"
In the next installment, I'll explore further the purposes of suffering, and factors that could contribute to our feelings of discontent, which we may interpret as "suffering," (as well as the dangers and pitfalls of such a mindset).