Some days, the alarm serenades me from sweet sleep. Some days, I lie awake waiting - waiting to fall back into sweet sleep while simultaneously anticipating the jolt. Yet, either way, the morning comes, I zealously anticipate the glorious unfolding each day brings.
I love the quietness of morning. The still, peaceful movement of each hour passing to the next. Preparing coffee, prayer, study, coffee, writing, coffee, and selfishly, having God all to myself - and coffee. (At least, I pretend I have him all to myself I know many of you are sharing Him then too.)
I truly look forward to every day. I have a beautiful life. I get to love three beautiful daughters and two boys that two of them love. I have the joy of a career and have found peace in the success it brings that fulfills and sustains me. I am patient in chasing after my calling to write and speak and it ignites my heart in ways that only pursuing your God-given dream can. I enjoy the kindness and goodness of godly, meaningful friendships. I faithfully serve in an incredible church. I have a beautiful, teeny tiny home that I adore and allows the gentleness of a stress-free financial life. I am deeply content, comfortable and I love living my life while maintaining great anticipation for many beautiful days, moments, and seasons yet ahead. My best days are yet to be. God has been faithful to my faith to bring me to this place and time.
Well, good for you, Ami? How can you be so happy let alone deeply content?
Don't you see what is happening in this world?
How can't you fear the future and the outcomes that may come to pass?
What if your daughters get sick? What if you get sick?
What if you can't retire because your finances fall short?
You're single! How can you ever be whole without a man or a marriage?
What if you lose your job?
What if your house burns down - again!
These are all questions I have been asked. For real. (Yes, even the single one.)
The answer to all of the above: I refuse to allow a troubled heart to reside in this temple; and I am not afraid to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced. If all of the above does happen, I will allow God to use it to conform me to be more like Jesus.
"Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!" John 12:27-28
I love that Jesus lets us see it is okay to lift our troubled hearts to God - to tell him what we really want is a way out - we want Him to remove the hard thing, rescue us from the pain, worry, anxiety, trouble, hardship. But Jesus then models the very essence of what our entire faith should rest in and he somehow finds the strength to sigh, “Father, I will trust you in this trouble and discomfort, do what you will do Lord, and let this hard time I am going through, glorify your name through me."
There is nothing that we enjoy more than our personal comfort. We all love the feeling that we get when we come home after a long day and we change into our comfortable clothes and sit down in our comfy chair and relax. We enjoy eating comfort foods and good cooking that warms our souls. We like to do what is safe and we avoid conflict and confrontation as much as possible. We enjoy the comfort of the safe walls of the familiar. But, is this how God wants us to live? Does He want us to be constantly comfortable?
God does not expect us to be comfortable, rather, He is concerned if we are conformable. Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son…..”
If we are looking for comfort we protect our plans, our desires, save our lives, block our hearts, and never allow inconvenience emotionally, spiritually, or mentally. The world and its desires become our longing. But if we yield our lives and all the outcomes of our choices back to God, we will never be alone and will have the joy of being fruitful. The first words God ever spoken to Adam and Eve are "Be fruitful". Fruitful means increase. The fruit of the spirit is: Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness and Self-control. I know, I want fruit to look like houses, cars, fat bank accounts, and luxury trips too. But choosing to be fruitful has nothing to do with the increase in the accumulation of possessions. Rather, it feels more like the culmination of progression.
Progressing through trials.
Progressing through disappointment.
Progressing through dashed hopes.
Progressing through loss.
Progressing through mess-ups.
On the other side of the progressing is faith so unshakeable and so enduring that it anchors you to what is true, right, good, and holy. In drudging through the progressing, you become strong and confident and kinder and more empathetic. In persevering through the progressing you develop fearlessness of hard things. It's a mentality of "bring it on because this fight, is bringing me higher. This difficulty is taking me to a new level. This heartbreak is making me like Jesus. God use this to glorify your name!"
David Platt says contentment is the sweet inward state of perpetual joy, peace, gentleness, and strength in every moment regardless of our circumstances. Are you thinking, "there is no way that is possible!" It is possible and it's true.
Paul teaches this secret in Philippians. It's an incredible book. Life-changing really. Essentially, contentment comes from inside of us, not outside of us. It is completely free from dependence on circumstances. It has nothing to do with what is going on or not, around us. So yes, even if all those things were to happen to me in the list above, my contentment has nothing to do with what is going on outside of me but rather, it comes from the God inside me.
Things don't need to be better for me to feel better.
If I am healthy or sick.
If the economy rebounds or not.
If school resumes or doesn't.
If there's a pandemic or no pandemic.
If I am single or married.
I can live content in the messy middle.
The immediate danger is to look inside. The answer isn't self-help or the power of positive thinking. It isn't self-talk, self-focus, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, self-sufficiency. Please hear this...that is not contentment. That is conceit. Self-focus in any way is pride.
So then how do we have contentment in difficulty? Paul gives us the secret.
"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13
There is only one who is all self-sufficient, who depends on nothing and no one to breathe, or to exist or to be. Jesus. And Paul tells us that we can do all things through Him, who gives us strength. When you are in him, he is in you and you have access to all he has. The same power, the same Father, the same faith, the same peace, the same contentment...is in you as was in Jesus.
So when your heart is troubled, as Jesus' was, look no further than He who is living in you. We face any and every circumstance knowing that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. And thus, we are conformed to becoming like him and the fruit of that is oh so sweet.