Intent to Be Content
As Thanksgiving approaches, my recent struggle with gratitude and contentment weigh heavily on my mind. I’ve been finding myself restless and busy, unsettled and striving. More than I’d like to admit, I’ve been astray in a losing battle of comparison over my home, appearance, and children. I’m neck-deep in it. Major transitions and changes - though I’ve become adept at the outward processes - have a way of thrusting me into self-made trenches.
My husband and I just moved our family halfway across the country...again. He’s in a new work role and we’re overjoyed to be where we are. But, despite being more financially sound than we’ve ever been, I feel the subtle yet powerful battle for my attention stronger than ever before.
The problem is, I’ve been walking in my own strength far too often amidst this season of adjustment. And I’m weak. Instead of focusing on the meaningful aspects of this life that I know have eternal value, I feel so strongly pulled in my flesh to focus on everything temporal - what’s tangible. I’m distracted. I find my mind drowning with “if-thens”:
If my youngest slept through the night, then I would be able to have more discipline in my life.
If we paint the walls, then the house would match our style.
If we decorate a certain way, then others would be impressed.
If our boys were a little older, then I could have more freedom.
If I go back to graduate school, then I’ll feel fulfilled in my work.
I’m entertaining these thoughts and allowing them to dictate my emotions and actions. Since when did I forget that there’s a constant unseen battle going on for my soul? When did I stop inviting the Holy Spirit into my life each day? Why did I sit back and expect to be sound spiritually amidst this life change, without diligence to seek the Lord daily? When left to my own devices, the silent and subtle tug of the world pulls me in the opposite direction of Jesus.
It’s in this type of spiritual soil that the seed of discontent is able to grow, and even thrive. When we rely on our limited outlook and entertain what brings us immediate comfort, our world shrinks and our focus shifts to what’s fleeting. In this small world of mine, I find it far easier for greed, comparison, and the desire for worldly accomplishments to creep in. These are the things that fuel discontentment in the human heart.
Conversely, when we seek Jesus with all our hearts, rely on His Word, and invite His Spirit into our hearts daily, we walk in step with Him. He is magnified and our circumstances are diminished. Contentment is fueled within us through satisfaction in Him alone, eternal perspective, and gratitude.
In the midst of all of this, I’ve been meditating on the Parable of the Sower. “What kind of seed am I?” I often wonder. Matthew 13:1-9, 22 (ESV) reads, “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”...As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”
Cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches...they choke out the word. How easily I could become the seed that falls amongst the thorns. Discontentment and dissatisfaction do feel like being choked sometimes. The obsession with attaining - it suffocates all rest, joy, and peace. (Disclaimer: this doesn’t just apply to possessions or wealth, it actually applies to anything that steals our focus, clouds our hearts, and ignites covetousness within us.)
What a relief that this doesn’t come as a surprise to Christ. He knows our tendencies well. Jesus talks about discontentment and striving repeatedly in his parables and teachings. Luke and Paul make it a point to write about these commons troubles as well:
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” - Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” - 1 Timothy 6:6-7 (ESV)
“And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” - Luke 12:15 (ESV)
God knows that our innate sinful nature is to desire more. He made us this way - to yearn for more - on purpose. Yet, when left to our own devices, we often desire more of the wrong thing, or we desire the right thing with the wrong motives. However, when walking beside Him and leaning into His loving arms, we are enabled by His Spirit to desire more of what we truly need - deeper relationship with Him. Intimacy that yields the fruit of contentment and rest. A longing for His Kingdom and His work, not ours.
I’m learning that just as we exercise our physical muscles to become strong, the discipline of contentment is a spiritual muscle that must be exercised. In the big and small areas of life, our hearts need to be prepared to do battle. We must fight for our minds, hearts, spouses, and children. We cannot sit back and expect satisfaction deep within our souls to happen naturally. It won’t. This is not a passive endeavor. It takes the Holy Spirit, intention, and practice to build up this part of us as His children.
As the holidays approach and we focus on giving thanks, I’m daily praying and working through my current struggle with contentment. I long to be at peace with my children’s ages, temperaments, and sleep patterns. I desire to be satisfied with the paint color on our walls and empty corners of our rooms. I want to be at rest simply being me, with or without a Master’s Degree. Most of all, I aim to be completely content and satisfied in Christ, simply because I’m His.