Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Contentment

I'm still contemplating the topic I posted about on Friday. I had a long conversation with a woman last night who is pregnant and due in late June. Her husband has been unemployed for over a year. His situation sounds like Mike's: he's applied for every conceivable position but can't get any call backs. Recently he has gotten a part-time job, but it's still not enough to live on.

She is hoping God will change their situation, but also having to face that she may have to go back to work, with her commute of 2 hours and 15 minutes a day, when her baby is 6 weeks old. I can't even imagine how difficult that would be. (Caveat: I know many working moms who do go back to work and do an excellent job. I just know the inner anguish for a woman whose deep desire is to stay home but can't is serious.)

I think sometimes when we think of contentment, we can tend to downplay what we are discontent about as silly. And sometimes our discontents are quite silly. (I have until recently been very discontent with my grass itself. My neighbor's lawn really is greener, and my mulch all blew away and my plants are piddly and pathetic and my tree was eaten by a deer.)

In my own discontent, I'm sometimes reminded of a quote from Bridget Jones Diary 2, a horrible movie, but with just the best quote ever (and which I may have shared before; I can't remember). Bridget is in a Thai prison, commiserating with the other girls about their hard lives and their stinky boyfriends. Several girls share about their boyfriends: "My boyfriend, he make me do drugs and then he make me steal for him." Another shares: "My boyfriend, he hit me and he make me be a prostitute." Both very horrendous but realistic scenarios. Then they say, "What about you, Bridget? What your bad boyfriend do?"

And Bridget says, "Well, we went to this event where I didn't think he showed me proper respect and....(realizing how ridiculous her complaints sound)...you know, he hits me and makes me take drugs."

Sometimes I'm like Bridget, complaining about what, put in perspective, is really not what one would class as a major world problem. For example, grumbling to God about my husband who didn't have a job when Mike is the most loving, hardworking, persevering and affectionate husband I could ever dream of and when at work I would regularly read stories about husband's who abused or abandoned their wives.

But often our discontents are very real and hard. Like I said, I can't imagine how hard my friend's situation must be. But then if we look at what Paul said about contentment, his trials weren't silly either:

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for 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. (Philippians 4:11-12)

He was sometimes beaten, sometimes imprisoned, and sometimes starving. I wouldn't consider those light afflictions. But he still knew how to be content: He could do anything through Christ who strengthened him (next verse, 13).

Contentment isn't about stopping being silly and gritting your teeth and just being happy. (I don't think that works.) It is realizing that because of Christ we can face all things and through his strength, we can do all things. We aren't alone in our world full of problems and discontent and situations we never wanted to be in to just buck up and bear it; we have the Holy Spirit, the Counselor and Comforter, and who gives us power to overcome; the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

So, tell me, what do you struggle with being discontent about? Do you tend to a. complain about it, b. buck up and bear it, or c. ask God for strength to overcome it?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

In hard times, I encourage myself by thinking about those who came before me and how they handled adversity. In about 1865, my great grandmother was given away to neighbors when she was four years old, because her mother couldn't feed her. Her eleven year old brother had already left home to live and work on a farm to support himself. (That was not unusual in those days.) In about 1920, my father-in-law was given up for adoption to a lady who found him hunting for something to eat in a garbage can. My brother-in-law told of going to bed without anything to eat for dinner. In 1929there was the great depression when many were out of work. My mother remembers her father taking a chicken in trade for services so her family would have food. We have been living in a time of prosperity since after World War II. We think of these prosperous times as the norm. But, if we look at a longer time period, we see that our grandfathers and great-great grandfathers also struggled. I gain comfort and strength knowing that they faced what many of us are facing today. That they lived through hard times and overcame. Our standard of living is much higher than what they had. The death of a child to illness was not uncommon without the drugs that are available now. It doesn't make it easy for us if we don't have a job today or if we have some other problem. It is still a struggle. But, we can draw close to God and ask Him to be with us. We can let go of what we think of as "the norm." This has not been the norm for most people throughout history and it is not the norm today in most countries. People just do what they have to to survive. We can tell ourselves, "With God's help, I can do whatever I have to do; because at the end of the day, my family and I will be well.

Amber said...

That's a very good point. Perspective is everything!