Living Gratefully, Creating Contentment
Isn’t the American Dream predicated on the fundamental concept of having a better life than the previous generation? We don’t just want to give our kids what we had, we want to give them something bigger and better, right? And then we wonder why we are never satisfied and why so many feel entitled.
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" Phillipians 4:11
I have in the past 5 years said this over and over and I will say it again. I have the most amazing life. I could list the uncountable blessings and the joy that I derive from every blessing on the list. That's coming from someone who has gained it all, lost it all, loved deep, been heartbroken deeper, hoped against hope and then hoped some more and has had many seasons and reasons to give up. But yet - somehow, someway - I have been abundantly blessed over and over and over. Grace. Glorious, beautiful, amazing grace by a God who just doesn't seem to want to give up on me and has provided richly so many reasons for gratitude. So here's a partial list of my gratitude goodies:
1. My children are the most phenomenal young women on the planet (I am not kidding, if you met them, you would say the same)
2. My career is on a path that only God could have provided and I have never been happier or more successful professionally in the most fabulous company in the world, I am in my dream job (I really mean it, Staples is incomparable in culture and fun) My exceedingly abundantly year is exceeding my expectations!
3. I am crazy in love with my teeny tiny home and just finished a huge landscaping job that created a backyard paradise and I had a front porch built that is perfection and my contractor is starting finishing out my basement (I live in the coziest most peaceful home on earth).
4. My friends and work colleagues are an absolute joy
5. My new pastor at church is a God send.
6. My vacation itinerary this summer is stellar
7. I had a fabulous first date Friday night
8. My health is great
9. My dog is a rockstar
10. My salvation is secure
11. I do not have a need in the world.
I. am. grateful.
But if I am being honest, grateful is easy, contentment is hard. Gratitude and contentment go hand in hand and they feed off the necessary ingredient of faith. When you are grateful for the smallest of things, contentment overflows. Or does it?
Duke theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon once said, “Our problem as humans is not that we are full of desire, aflame with unfulfillment. Our problem is that we long for that which is unfulfilling. We attempt to be content with that which can never satisfy. … What we want is power and status. Alas, we find that no matter what we have acquired, there is always someone we envy.”
Ok, so I'll admit it. There is one thing I pray for. I pray that God would bless me with marriage again. A life partner that no matter what may rise up in life, would choose me over & over every day to go through it with. A man that would honor me, cherish me and never, ever dream of abandoning our commitment to each other. But even though I have not met that man yet (maybe...see #7 on the list above) here is my point - I am still deeply content with my singleness even though I do not have what I pray for. How? Let me explain.
Since my divorce in 2006, I have been in relationships and have led to many heartbreaks. I choose men that are weak and shallow in their understanding of commitment, real love, emotional availability and selflessness. Notice I said, I choose. It is my issue that these heartbreaks happen. I knew in every single instance I should not have moved forward in creating a relationship. And so I am figuring that out. But what gives me contentment is that although my heart was broken, I am grateful that through those experiences, God taught me how to love unconditionally. That God used me to point those men to Him. That God put in me a joy and patience that cannot be extinguished by others and I shared that joy and patience. That God, in removing those bad relationships from my life, is ultimately protecting me and redirecting me to the man of my dreams. That God is my source and will work all of this heartbreak for my good and His glory.
Contentment is to rest in Christ, trusting He is in control. Circumstances and situations, good or bad, are an opportunity for Him to show Himself faithful. However, contentment is not passive and uninformed, but rather engaged and educated. Contentment doesn't mean you stop striving for goals, creating new successes or imagining new heights or new loves. It simply means that there is no room for anxiety. It replaces worry with work, pity with prayer, pride with humility, and grumbling with gratitude. To be content doesn’t mean you don’t desire more, it means you’re thankful for what you have and patient for what’s to come.
Contentment knows that even though I do not have (yet) what I pray for, that God will work it all out and in fact, He already has. God knows the ending to every ask and part of the beauty of contentment is living life in a way that allows peace and patience to sit in the front row of your life and watch the glorious unfolding by God of your prayer.
Eager, joyful expectation moves God's heart and fills your heart with contentment. Is today the day Lord, that I meet who you would choose for me? Is today the day Father, that my business sells? Is today the day God, that I get a good health report? Is today the day Jesus, that I experience success at work? Is today the day that I am free from addiction, pain, depression?
Although I may not have all I want (and in this life we never will) in Christ I have ALL that is necessary and in that I am grateful and so very, very content. Never let the things you want, allow you to forget the abundance you already have.