Somewhere in the middle of a challenging toddler, an active baby, a suddenly sick husband, and returning to work, I realized that I was not enjoying my life. I felt that mothering was not at all what I had expected. I felt shaken to the core by my husband’s sudden sickness. I was stressed about returning to work and how those demands would affect our family. I was definitely discontent. As God would have it, I had also been praying for contentment for our entire family during that time (2010-2011). Isn’t it just like God to teach us something good during a tough season of life?
I’m so grateful to say that we are at a better place now than we were a year ago. It’s not because so many of our circumstances have changed, but because God taught me contentment in that exact time of discontent. He answered my prayer. I still have many more lessons to learn here but this is what I’ve learned so far…
1.Contentment is learned through seasons of discontent. – If you’re in one of those seasons, hooray! You are just in the place to learn some great stuff from God.
2. Contentment is something that comes from security not circumstances. – It is our nature to find something that gives us security. Each of us is doing that now. It could be mothering, money, food, body image, talent, friendship, etc. that provides that feeling for us but sadly that’s all it is – a feeling. True security is directly correlated to our relationship with Jesus. The more secure we are in Him, the more content we become. When I look back at my most recent season of discontent, I can see how God made nearly every earthly relationship “insecure”. This turned out to be a great mercy from Him because it increased my dependence on Him, proving Him once again to be perfectly dependable.
3. Contentment is under attack. It’s main assaults are comparison, bitterness, and isolation. – Comparison is the quickest way to become discontent. We never compare in truth, often comparing our worst with someone else’s best. Comparison never turns out well. We either elevate ourself at the expense of another or devalue ourself and put distance in our relationships. We must make every effort to kill comparison no matter how drastic the action. For me, that meant giving up 2 things that I really enjoyed – Facebook and Southern Living Magazine. I have not missed either and I’ve learned that if we don’t kill comparison, it will kill us.
Bitterness is sneaky and dangerous, defiling many (see Hebrews 12:15). It’s often much easier to recognize in others than in ourselves. It’s symptoms include things such as self-reliance, gossip, jealousy, coldness of heart, self-centered thinking, sharpness of tongue, withdraw, comparison, and a critical spirit. Unfortunately, we don’t often realize we have bitterness until we have become it. Maybe we respond to a situation in an alarming way, triggering thoughts that there could be a problem deep within. That is the time to ask God to rip it out of us and replace it with something good. I think of pulling an established weed out of a garden. When we get it by the roots, a hole is left in the soil. If not replaced with something good, that hole will be fertile ground for more weeds. Ask God to pull bitterness out of us by the roots and replace it with love, forgiveness, healing, and mercy, leaving no hole.
Isolation is a hard and sad place. It makes lies easier to believe. It makes us do self-destructive things (a few examples…overeat, sleep too much, under-eat, watch unhealthy shows, stalk Facebook, etc.). In coming out of isolation, our priority is to train ourselves to turn to God first, above all. Before you talk to your hubby, before you pick up the phone, before you send the e-mail, etc., talk to God. He becomes our closest companion and in that, we become healthy again. Immerse yourself in God, His Word, and in a place filled with God’s people. Then, begin to reach out in specific ways – join a group, organize a playdate, etc. (Just don’t put all your eggs in one basket and keep trying if something doesn’t work out.)
4.Contentment is worth the work. – A content spirit is the best beauty treatment we could receive. “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5) A content spirit makes us richer than all the treasure in the world. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) Contentment gives us the tools to face the rollercoaster of life without being greatly moved. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11b-13) Doesn’t that just sound good?
Lord, thank you for teaching contentment in the midst of life’s misery. Thank you for being faithful, reliable, wise, and good. Keep teaching me Father. I love you. Amen