Sometimes words of wisdom are imparted to me just at the exact time I need to hear them most. Some folks call that coincidence. Some call it fate. I call it “a God-thing.”
We meander along in this life trying to make sense of it and live it the best way we know how. But sometimes, we get stymied by circumstances that leave us scratching our heads and wondering how in the world did we get here? Often the circumstances are stumbling blocks, sometimes they’re just huge obstacles in our way and we think there’s no way over this, around this, or through this.
Those are the times I wish I could say that as a believer in Christ, I always turn to God through prayer and reading His Holy Word. But guess what? I don’t always do that. Instead I try to muster up enough of my own wisdom and understanding to muscle my way through the hindrance before me. And only when I get totally frustrated and exhausted from trying to pummel through a situation on my own do I finally do what I know I should do. Call upon God.
The reasons I don’t always do so are many, I suppose, but it boils down to one thing. I am not a perfect Christian. I am a constant struggler. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, or maybe I’ve settled that worldly mantra of “I’ll do it my way” into my stubborn self. And that’s why I need those reminders – those God-things.
This past Sunday I listened to my pastor give a message on contentment and experienced yet again another reminder. Pastor reiterated the message to me that contentment is “adjusting to your circumstances.” Yep, there it was, big and bold right up there on that power point. And oh, I thought I had learned that lesson many years ago.
Back then, I struggled mightily with an issue which brought me discontent. We had lived in the Midwest for eight years as happily as oysters tucked into their beds in the bottom of the deep blue sea. You might say we were cultivating our own beautiful pearl there.
Our family of five was nestled in our comfortable home, we had great friends and neighbors, a caring church family, good schools for our children, fulfilling job for hubby, and numerous volunteer opportunities for this Mama…you get my drift. Life was good there or to quote Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor: “Why, then the world’s mine oyster.” A bonus was that we were also within driving distance of our families back home in the Northeast.
But the oyster was ripped open and that shiny pearl was plucked out and flung to the far side of the country. In other words, my husband got promoted necessitating a move to the Pacific Northwest. At first, it was a grand adventure for our family. Excitement reigned as we prepared for life in an area of the country we had never been before. New house, new friends, new community, new school, and new church to find. Beautiful, breathtaking sights to see. Yes, it truly was an adventure and we shined up our pearl of life which gleamed in our new surroundings.
But after a few years, something unsettling forged its way into my heart, mind, and soul. Discontentment. As good as life seemed living there, I couldn’t help but be saddened because we were an entire countryside away from our aging parents. And I couldn’t imagine staying there for the rest of our lives. The thought made me as gloomy and dreary as the gray, overcast skies that permeate that area of the country.
At the time, I was getting together once a week with a dear friend for Bible study and fellowship. She carefully listened as I shared my struggle and why I wasn’t feeling content where God had placed my family and me. Then she wisely and lovingly pointed me in the right direction – to God’s Word and prayer.
I started earnestly beseeching the Lord to help me find contentment right where I was – in the very circumstances that prompted my discontent. I praised Him and I thanked Him for the ways I witnessed a deepening of faith in my family because of our move and for the many blessings He had bestowed on us.
And honestly, just when I had finally arrived at the place where I could discard that downcast robe of discontent and don the contented coat of accepting my circumstances, things changed dramatically and dare I say it? Miraculously.
So here’s the thing. Lately, that old feeling of being dissatisfied with the circumstances of life has resurfaced. Yes, I admit I may have been hanging on to unrealistic expectations. Yes, I allowed myself to be controlled by circumstances. And yes, I found myself complaining instead of praising God and being thankful. See, Pastor, I really was listening!
Yes, that message I heard on Sunday showed me I needed to re-learn that lesson I thought I’d mastered all those years ago. And I needed a reminder of the color of contentment.
“Circumstances and situations do color life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the color shall be.” ~ John Homer Miller
Will I choose to let the muted grays, browns, and blacks of discontent color and darken my life, or will I choose the vibrant, glorious rainbow of colors that praising and thanking the Lord provides?
My contentment does not depend upon what my circumstances may be. My color of choice to pursue contentment is anchored to serving, praising, and thanking a Savior, Jesus.
The Apostle Paul said it best in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not telling you this because I need anything. I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough. I can do all things through Christ, because He gives me strength.” (New Century Version)