Our morning started dark and cold with icy sleet collecting on our lawn for the second time this winter - which has us South Texans a bit confused. The first time it snowed, we woke up to a magical wonderland of powder. This time we awoke to miserable ice. Yet my kids are out in it even as I type this (hurray for some peace and quiet for Mama!), amazed and desperately trying to gather enough frozen water to throw a snowball. It is a perfect day to stay by the fire and do nothing, which is pretty much my plan (also, because frozen precipitation pretty much renders South Texans terrified to leave their homes). Meanwhile, my girls are pushing each other down the gentle slope in the backyard on a secondhand sled we bought a few years ago. Somehow there is just enough sleet mixed in with the dead grass to send them sliding a good 20 yards. They are having so much fun.
It is these moments that remind me how easy it is for kids to embrace joy. To see them so content with this miserably cold, winter mix convicts me of my adult tendency to demand better. Yes, children are given to whining and complaining, no doubt, but it doesn’t take much to make them happy. My heart, however, lacks joy and contentedness much of the time. I usually find myself impatiently waiting for the next best thing to come along. I tap my fingers in frustration as I wait for the next season of life that I am convinced will be easier than this one. I find myself thinking often, “Once such and such happens, then I will be able to ___________”, fill in the blank with whatever at that moment I think it is I need to be content.
The biggest problem with discontentment is it opens the door for envy. Envy convinces us that if only we had that house, those clothes, her body, that color of hair, their marriage, a better job, stronger faith, well-behaved children, a different life…then we would find joy. And the result is damaged relationships and lonliness which leads to more discontentment. There is no joy to be found when one allows discontentment and jealousy to rule. But we women are very prone to comparison and envy. And that’s nothing new. Eve compared what God had promised her to what Satan was saying and decided she was discontent with God’s gifts (the whole freakin’ garden BTW with the exception of that one, yes just one, tree…really Eve?) and followed her discontentment all the way to the ruination of humanity. Yikes. It’s hard to believe that our petty envy’s would lead us to something so dramatic, yet, it was just fruit that Eve wanted. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, until it is a big deal. And Satan is very good at making our discontentment seem like it’s not a big deal, until we realize too late that it is a big deal. Buying new stuff isn’t a big deal until we are faced with financial devastation. Harmless flirtation doesn’t seem like a big deal until we find ourselves in the middle of an affair. Resentment towards the family we have doesn’t seem like a big deal until our children leave home and refuse to reconcile. Discontentment today doesn’t seem like a big deal until we find ourselves years from now alone, depressed and wishing we could get a do-over.
But, how do we find contentment?
Paul talks a bit about contentment. He says it comes from godliness (1 Timothy 6:6), from loving God more than this world (1 Timothy 6:10), and the true secret of contentment comes from the strength God alone gives (Philippians 4:11-13).
Jesus explains to his disciples in Matthew 6 that there is no need to be anxious for anything. God takes care of his creation, birds, flowers and us too. He tells us we don’t need to be like the unbelievers who chase after these things. Instead, we are to seek the kingdom of God first. Resting and trusting in God's love is where we find contentment.
If I consider what my habits have been during times of great discontentment, I usually find that I have been spending a lot more time online rather than in my Bible. If I don’t regularly read Scripture, then my heart starts to wander. It is sad that I so easily stray (no wonder Jesus calls us sheep). Too much time on social media has a similar effect. I start to wish my life looked like the pretty pictures I see other people posting. Most social media is basically the manure that fertilizes discontentment in our hearts. By the grace of God, I can more easily recognize those seeds and immediately know that to keep them from sprouting is to put my phone down and read, pray or take a walk around and really see my life for the beautiful gift that it is.
Is this always easy to do? No. Is it necessary to be so dramatic? Yes. Don’t believe me? Let’s ask Eve when we see her, if a more drastic action is really necessary when the enemy tosses discontentment your direction. I think she would say it is indeed necessary. Envy has a way of messing with our minds and perverting our understanding of things. It will lead us to do things we didn’t know we were capable of doing. It will lead us to ungodly decisions. It leads to disunity and disagreements. Ultimately, it separates us from God. Envy and discontentment is why Satan was forced to leave God’s presence if you remember. He was not content with his station as an angel. He envied God’s position. No dramatization necessary. God’s reaction to discontentment is evidence enough of the seriousness of a little grumbling and complaining.
As I’ve been writing, the sleeting rain has transformed to a gloriously soft snow. Real, deal snow. Huge flakes are fluttering side to side as they fall. It looks like a movie-like those flakes are too big to be real. The joy that was in my kid's hearts has just tripled as they stand with tongues sticking out trying to catch as many flakes as possible. But even if the snow had never come, they still would have been happy today. And that’s how I want to be. Just happy. Content with all the various circumstances that come my way. I want to see the beauty of the snow day, rather than just seeing the dark clouds that are hanging overhead. I don’t want to long for tomorrow to get here, I want to enjoy today. I’ve missed too many good days with my kids wishing they were older and more self-sufficient. No more. I want to enjoy where we are, knowing that today is a gift, tomorrow is not promised, and no matter what comes, the joy of the Lord will be my strength.
My prayer for you and me today is that we will find contentment in all circumstances. I pray that our hearts will not long for something else, but rather will be satisfied and filled with Christ. May we be content with what God has gifted us, and not whine and grumble like spoiled children. May we seek his kingdom first, trusting that all we need will be added by his grace and goodness.
Teach and urge these things...godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 1 Timothy 6:2-8