Christmas is a season when many people struggle with discontentment. The stores are all telling us that we *need* the latest and greatest for Christmas gifts. Children are upset, because their friends got bigger and/or better presents. We feel pressured to spend and buy, many times much more than we can afford. I did a little lesson about this at our Ladies Christmas Tea this past Saturday, and then found this old post that I had written about Contentment and decided to repost it.
*Repost: Originally published in November 2010.
...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Philippians 4:11
There are a lot of discontent people in the world today, and a lot of people who like to complain about anything and everything. Complaining is the natural result of discontentment. I don't particularly enjoy being around people who complain all the time, and yet I often find myself guilty of being the complainer.
I really try to be content. Paul had to learn to be content. Now if anyone deserves the title "super-Christian" it's the apostle Paul. But, the fact that he had to learn to be content means that he struggled with being discontent. Some may think, well if Paul struggled with discontentment and he was super-Christian, then I may as well just give up! I'll never be content, so what's the use trying! I prefer to take a less negative point of view :). I find the fact that Paul struggled with discontentment encouraging. It shows us his humility in that he could admit his spiritual weaknesses. It also shows us his human nature. Paul did some great things for the Lord, but the truth is all Christians are capable of doing just as great things for the Lord. Yes, Paul did struggle with discontentment, but the key is that he learned to be content. He learned to simply place his life in God's hands and accept the outcome. If Paul can learn that, then I can learn it too! That's what's encouraging!
People are discontent about all sorts of things. They don't like their job. The people in the office are all losers. They fight with their spouse. They can't stand their mother-in-law. Their kids never listen. Their house is too small. The furniture is dated. The yard is ugly. They don't like the city they live in. They always complain about the weather. If it's summer it's too hot. If it's winter it's too cold and snowy. The rain makes them feel yucky. They don't like their church. It's too big. It's too small. There's not enough programs for my children. The pastor is too dogmatic. His preaching isn't encouraging enough. He's always harping about our lives and living for God and change this and change that. Or maybe it's the other way around and the pastor is too wishy-washy in his doctrine. He's always changing his mind about things. The people at church aren't friendly enough. The music isn't very good. The Sunday School teacher is ignoring my child. People are discontent because life just hasn't worked out the way they planned. They haven't met that perfect person to marry yet. Maybe they'll never get married, and they'll end up being alone forever (horrors!). Or they met someone and married him/her, but now it's getting hard. They disagree more, and somehow happily ever after just isn't happening. The career isn't going the way they planned. They haven't been able to save the money they wanted, buy the house, buy the car, or take the vacation. DISCONTENTMENT!
Wow, reading that list sure could make a person depressed! Living that way is depressing too. One thing I've learned, is that life rarely works out the way I planned it to. But here's the thing. Do I want my life to be what I want, or do I want it to be what God wants? The Bible says that if I'm totally surrendered to God, He's going to make my life go the direction He wants it to go. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. It doesn't say He might direct my path, or maybe if He feels like it He'll let me know which way to go. It says he shall direct my paths. It's guaranteed. When I'm discontent with the way my life is going I'm saying I don't want to be part of God's will for me, and He doesn't really know what He is doing. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD (Is. 55:8). That verse has hit me like a ton of bricks many times!
Why could Paul say he learned to be content? He tells us in Philippians 4. In verse 6 he admonishes the Philippians to be careful for nothing. That means don't worry about things. If we're not worried then we will be content. Instead of worrying (being careful) we are to bring our requests before God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Prayer carries the idea to talking to God on a personal level. Supplication is pleading with God; begging Him for His will in our lives. Thanksgiving carries the idea of trust. We thank God because we know He will answer. We're trusting Him with the outcome instead of worrying about it, and when our trust is completely in God we can't help but be content. In verse 4 Paul says to rejoice. If we're rejoicing and praising God for His goodness, we won't have time to be discontent. Verse 8 tells us how we are supposed to think and what we are supposed to think about. If our mind is occupied with these good things then there will not be room for discontentment. Verse 13 is the key. I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me. That is the hope and power of the Christian life. Christ is the key. If I'm resting in Him I won't be discontent. I will be able to do all things.
Some things in our lives we cannot change. We just have to accept them. But, some things we CAN change. If something is causing us to be discontent, and we have the power to change it, I think there is wisdom in considering a change. Maybe we can't change something that's really bothering us, but perhaps we can find a creative solution that would help make the situation easier to handle. For instance: maybe the people at work are offensive in their language. We can't really make people stop using bad language, but we can always ask them politely not to swear around us. They may stop and they may not. If they don't stop we might have to get a bit more creative. Maybe we could listen to sermons online while working. Maybe we could wear ear plugs. I know that may seem a bit extreme, but BE CREATIVE! I used to work at a provincial park in the summers when I was in college, and the language could get pretty bad. When some of the girls found out I was a Christian, they actually tried to stop swearing around me! Maybe if the people we worked with knew we were a Christians and that we found bad language offensive they would try to stop using it. Of course, there will be those who won't, but it's worth a try. Many times at the park when the language would get bad I would just go to another area of the office and do my work. I could still hear everything, but at least it wasn't right in my face. There's ALWAYS a solution for problems like this. God wants us to be content, and He will help us figure out what to do. What about praying for those co-workers that swear all the time? They need the Lord in their lives! Maybe it's not in your power to get away from a bad situation, but God can do anything! Philippians 4:6.
My life has not turned out at all the way I planned it to be. I remember being in high school and thinking about what it would be like to be an adult all grown up. I would be married, have a family, live in a house, and maybe have some children. Yup... that didn't happen! Being a music teacher was the farthest thing from my mind when I was sixteen. I only took piano lessons because I'd been doing it since I was six, so what was the point of giving up now? I was almost finished... so I thought. God had other plans for me and my music. After I finished college, I never dreamed I would own my own business and my own house. I definitely did not want to live back up north. I figured I'd work at FaithWay for a few years, and then meet some nice independent Baptist young man and get married. Yup... that didn't happen either. It's kind of funny how God changes your heart and desires over time. Now I'm back up north, and I LOVE it. I'm not married, but that doesn't mean I've given up on that. Maybe I'll blog about my marriage ideas someday. Let's just say I'm not against the idea, but I'm not sitting around moaning and complaining because Mr. Right hasn't come along yet. All in God's time. See, my life is not my own. I've given it to God. It's His to guide and direct the way He sees fit. One thing I know is that God is always going to give me the absolute best! Whatever path my life is taking at any given moment, it is the absolute best path that God has for me. I'm not fighting Him, and I'm not questioning His leading. I'm just trying to be submissive and surrendered to His will, because I want the best. I don't want to settle for anything less!
For this God is our [my] God for ever and ever: he will be our [my] guide even unto death. Psalm 48:14
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11