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Friday, January 20, 2012

Contentment Part 5

It's easy enough to talk about contentment with the big things - life in general, focus on our eternal riches, thinking about how good our lives may be compared to those who live with less, contentment in parenting, marriages, relationships, material possessions etc. - the list is endless. It's the little things that drag me down.

Lest you think I perpetually sail above life an inch off the ground with my head in the heavenlies (sometimes my head is very clouded actually), I am really prone to struggle in the same ways as everyone I know. If I think I don't sure enough a day or two later I regret thinking such, as I stumble over the same WAFfing as anyone else (that's my code word for Worry Anxiety and Fear). And tacked onto that is this area of contentment.

What little things?
Things like: a kid who didn't complete homework on time, someone who used the last of the coffee creamer, someone else who insists on fussing over things I don't want to be fussed about, people who annoy me, little irritations like not shutting the garage door all the way or tracking in snow (or mud or sand or whatever it may be wherever you live), a kid who intentionally spills every drink you give him for the fun of it, kids who do dumb things in general, a baby that doesn't give me rest when I want it... the list here is endless too.

Can I be content when those around me disappoint me? When they don't agree with all my noble, (and highly intelligent and well developed might I add) opinions? When everything is taking longer than it should (in my internal clock frame-of-reference that everyone should know exactly what that is)? When a kid is being a kid? When my patience is tried? When my energy is sapped? When resources are low? When grace (on my part) seems to have run out?

Well, can I really be content with the little things that fly in my face and challenge my agenda of non-complaining contentment? Really? Can I have peace in the chaos?

Yes, a thousand times YES. And if I have to say it over and over - if only to myself - I still believe that yes, contentment and peace and serenity are to be had even in this household of three bedrooms and 8 people (that includes Sam, Me, Mother-in-law, Caleb, Priscilla, Timothy, Andrew and Hannah).

How? Well, as Paul said in Philippians 4:11 (one of my lifetime favourite verses): I have LEARNED in whatsoever state I am (which includes Illinois, I might add), therewith to be content.

I emphasized 'learned' because he wasn't born that way. I'm sure it was something that came through spiritual growth and struggle. How could he learn contentment if he never had anyone irritating him (and we do have recorded for us that he got irritated with others - to the extent he dropped the guy from his next mission trip!) - or if he never faced deprivation? Now there's a positive spin to things - no matter how bad your life may be - in the big disasters or the little day-to-day ones (that can slowly wear one down if we don't continue to put on the Lord Jesus who gives us His grace when our storehouse is empty), contentment can be learned - in fact, without the struggles of life, I daresay, your contentment is merely a temporary, unchallenged state of being. (That isn't to say life must always be a constant struggle - just our struggles aren't wasted if we grow in inner peace and contentment). And the source of our contentment cannot be side-stepped here.

You see, it is all well and good to talk about peace, serenity, serendipity, contentment, and an inner shield to all the irritants of life. But there is no point in talking about it in terms of our effort, self-will, philosophizing enough to figure it out - mustering it within our will-power to become a peaceful pollyanna soul. There is no point to that because I cannot manufacture my own peace. It will always crumble - or merely be a pretense or a self-hypnosis. There must be a giver of peace and calm. There must be a source of contentment outside myself, because I AM NOT A GOD UNTO MYSELF. If I were I would become a self-worshiper and that is empty and vile (sorry to put it so bluntly. okay, I'm not that sorry).

Where can I find true joy and contentment? From the One who said, "Peace I give you, not as the world gives...trust in God, trust also in Me." You can read this in John 14 - the peace chapter.

Don't try to be content. Seek contentment instead in a joy-filled relationship with the God Who made you and knows your struggles and irritations, hypocrisies and quirks - and Who loves you in spite of yourself. It is that very thing - in spite of myself - that makes His love so wonderful. If I come to the end of myself and realize I can't be the peaceful, calm person I wish I could be, I am at the beginning point of true contentment. Because then I can come needy and helpless to the throne of grace and find mercy to help me in my time of need. And confidently I know He will give it because He says, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' And if I have Him I know I can never be discontent because He is ALL I need.

I just need to live that way.

Here are a few verses of a great hymn, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind:

O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.



And that is my prayer - that through the clamour of my life and the temptations to whining in my own soul, that I would listen to His still small voice of calm - and seek for Him to Breathe to my heart through the 'earthquake, wind, and fire' and find my joy and rest in Him.


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