Tag Archives: Contentment

Pursuing God


The American doctrine of self-determination is one that is instilled in every schoolchild. It has become an inextricable part of our belief system of our right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Rugged individualism and autonomy are so ingrained in our thinking that questioning these ideals is almost unthinkable.

And yet, is this the way Christians are called to live? Do we have the right or even the ability to determine what is best for our own lives? Everything I’ve ever read in Scripture or experienced in my own life or observed in the lives of others leads me to give a resounding “no!” True life, true liberty, and true happiness come not from pursuing our own dreams and desires but from pursuing God and Him alone— letting Him define who I am and why I was created.

The movie “Dr. Strange” gives a good illustration of what I’m talking about. I know, I’m a total geek, but a lot of truth is found in myths, and superheroes are just our modern version of mythology. Dr. Strange thought his reason for existing was found in his brilliant career as a top neurosurgeon—then, of course, he has a terrible accident that ruins his hands and he can no longer work as a surgeon. His quest for meaning leads him to a mystic called the Ancient One, who teaches him how to manipulate reality itself, and so a super-hero is born—but an arrogant one who is still finding his life’s meaning in his own accomplishments. The Ancient One tells him that all his abilities and accomplishments mean nothing because he has failed to learn the most important and most simple lesson of all. She tells him, “It’s not about you.”

Dr. Strange’s life was, of course, about saving the world from ultimate destruction by a malevolent being. This may never be an issue for you. But the lesson he needed to learn is nevertheless a lesson we all need to learn. Our lives are not about us.

My life is not about me. I was not created for myself and I have no meaning in myself alone. God created me for Himself and I can only find meaning and contentment in Him—in Him alone.

I have a good life. I love my little house. I love my job. I love my church family. I feel I would be perfectly content to live here for the rest of my life, keeping things just as they are. But God has shown me that now it’s time for me to go somewhere else and find contentment in the home and work God gives me in on the mission field. If I rebelled and stayed here, my contentment would quickly slip away.

Because God has taught me in the past year or so that the contentment I find in these temporal things is actually the contentment of being in the center of His will. If I stayed here beyond the time God intends, I would no longer be in the center of God’s will, and I would no longer be content with anything.

My life is not about me. I was created for God and for Him alone. The Westminster Catechism tells us that the “Chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” If what I am doing is not glorifying God, then no matter how altruistic and wonderful my life’s goals might me, I will never find contentment. My purpose in life is to pursue God and Him alone—not my own dreams or goals or my own comfort and happiness. If I seek my own dreams and my own comfort, I will never, ever find them. But if I seek God, I will receive comfort, joy, and contentment in full measure. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

When my husband and I got married, we had a grand dream. We did not yet realize that our own plans for our lives are not necessarily God’s plans for us. We believed the verses in Psalm 37 that says:

“Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.”

We thought this meant that, whatever desire we have, it must be from Him, and He would give it to us just as we pictured it to be! We forgot about the rest of the Psalm, which goes on to say:

“Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him”

We had a dream and we pursued that dream pretty single-mindedly for over a year. It did not turn out well. We are to pursue God and Him alone, not our own dream or desires. We thought we knew what would bring us contentment, but we had no idea! In his book “Contentment: The Secret to a Lasting Calm”, Dr. Richard A Swenson says: “No man is what he himself thinks he is. He is only what Jesus knows him to be.” God knows what we are best fitted for because He is the one who fitted us for it! Dr. Swenson also writes, “If we love the wrong things, He gives us what we deserve: discontent.” I would say that is also true if we pursue the wrong things.

But we had not yet learned this lesson. Our dream was to own our own used bookstore. We envisioned it with shelves full of good books, some comfortable armchairs, maybe a fireplace or woodstove, rag rugs on the floor, a coffee maker—and lots of patrons coming by regularly to spend their spare hours searching the shelves and sitting around chatting about literature. We didn’t care about making money—just enough to pay the bills. It seems a simple and harmless dream, doesn’t it? We didn’t ask God if that’s what He wanted because obviously He did or He wouldn’t have created us to be the type of people who would want to own a bookstore, right?

We carried this dream with us as we hiked down the Appalachian Trail and ended up in a city with just enough money to buy a cheap car. We grabbed up the first jobs we could find—a telemarketing company that sold tickets to country music benefit shows to raise money for local charities. Sounds like a noble job, raising money for charity, doesn’t it? I was hired as a secretary, but my husband rose through the ranks quickly, from salesman to manager to running his own benefit show in another town within a few months. Then he was sent to run a show in still another town and I was sent to be his secretary. Life seemed grand! We were making a lot of money and we got to work together. Sadly, all our traveling back and forth meant we couldn’t plug into a church, so we were accountable to no one, and we were too busy to read God’s Word: but after all, we reasoned, this was only temporary until we could save enough money to start our bookstore. Then everything else would fall back into place, right?

We slowly started to realize that the partners who owned the business were skimming money from the main office. We were young and naïve and it took us far too long to understand that we were working for con men. This shocked us—stealing from the charities they were raising money to benefit! But—after all, we were running OUR shows honestly. If we were to quit, our bosses would take over and would be ripping off our shows, too! We reasoned that by continuing to work for criminals, we were actually doing good—saving the shows we were responsible for from being ripped off. And anyway, we had found the perfect building for our store—an ideal location for a good price. We just needed to raise the money and our dream would be ours. Maybe you’ve never resorted to such distortions of reason to achieve your dreams or goals, but whenever you stop pursuing God and start pursuing your own stuff, anything is feasible.

We’d been working for crooks for about 10 months when one of the partners emptied the business’s bank account and disappeared—we found out later that he went to South America to be a drug lord. Suddenly there was no money to pay us the comfortable salary we had been counting on.

The remaining partner offered us the opportunity of a new show in another city. He couldn’t pay us a salary, but he would pay us 40,000 dollars at the end of the three-month job. This was an unimaginable amount of money in the 1980’s! With one last job, we could then quit working for criminals and start our dream bookstore!

My husband and I looked at each other. One of us said, “Should we pray about it?” And then we said in unison, “Nah.” Of course, God wanted us to take this job! It was obviously His gift to us to raise the money to achieve the desire of our hearts, so we didn’t even need to ask Him! Secretly, we were afraid He would say no and our dream would elude our grasps. We were so invested in our own pursuits that we were no longer even pretending to pursue God.

I don’t have to tell you that this plan did not work out well. Crooks are crooks and can’t be trusted to keep their word. We ended up living in a campground in a borrowed tent—homeless for several months, chastened and forced to depend entirely on God once more. Finally, some friends offered to let us live with them until we could find new jobs and start our life all over again.

I’d like to say we BOTH learned our lesson and sought only God’s will for our lives from that time on. But the truth is, while my husband found his passion for God and pursued Christ wholeheartedly, I just got angry. I was so ashamed of what we’d done that I could not forgive myself and I could not believe that God would forgive us. As far as I was concerned, we’d blown it and had forever missed our chance ever to have the life of happiness and contentment we’d dreamed of. I stopped praying altogether and went to church with my poor, patient husband only grudgingly.

My bad attitude lasted about a year. During that time I got a job in an office in an office block, and it became my habit to arrive earlier in the morning than anyone else in the building in order to get ready for the day. One day, I let myself into the building, which remained locked to the public, then let myself into my office, which I also locked behind me. It was kind of creepy, being entirely alone in a huge office building.

I was working at my desk when the phone rang. I almost didn’t answer it—we weren’t officially open yet, after all, and no one should expect anyone to be in. But then I thought it might be my boss, so I picked up. A voice on the phone said, “Good morning! I’m just calling to remind you that Jesus loves you very much. Have nice day!” And she hung up.

And I thought, “What a crackpot!” and tried to get back to work. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Because the voice had said she had called to REMIND me, not to tell me. How could she know I only needed reminding? For the first time in a long time, I prayed. “God, if that was you,” I said, “You’ll have to prove it to me, because I don’t believe it.” Then I got the day’s bank deposit together and got up to walk to the bank.

And there, on the floor just inside my locked office door, was a fresh daisy, my favorite flower. It hadn’t been there when I came in, and I was alone in the building and the door had been locked. But there it was, my answer. He loves me, no matter what I’d done. I had stopped pursuing God, but He had never stopped pursuing me. I went home that day a changed woman, on fire for God, ready to follow His will.

In the years that followed, God showed us true contentment because we had finally learned to pursue Him, to listen to Him and go in the direction He had for us. He gave us the life that was perfect for us, but something entirely different from what we had believed would make us happy. When we got married, if anyone had told us that my husband would end up being a cop, we would have laughed hysterically and asked what they were drinking. But law enforcement ended up being a career in which he would effectively serve the Lord for 30 years. I had always known I wanted to write, and I aspired to write novels that students would have to study in High School one day. It never occurred to me that writing curriculum would be a more perfect fit for my talents and that tutoring would be how God would use me in the lives of students.

God knew us better than we could ever know ourselves. Our dream of a bookstore was so much less than what God had planned for our lives. I’m not saying we haven’t had trials, doubts, or grief. We’re sinners and we deal with sin. We’ve not walked in God’s will perfectly and our faith has at times wavered. But that’s on us, not on Him.

Proverbs 3:5-7 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and HE will direct your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.”

My life is not about me. Self-determination is not an option for one who claims to follow Christ. But when I give my life entirely over to God, I can trust Him to direct my path in the way that will best bring glory to Him. And when I bring glory to Him, I find true contentment and joy in my life. But how do I know I’m following Him on the correct path?

In John 10:3-4, Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd and that we who believe in Him are His sheep. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. . . . he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

It’s only through listening to His voice and obeying Him that we can live contentedly in the life He has for us. The ability to hear Him comes only with experience—with spending time in His presence. Dr. Swenson writes:

“We do not learn from afar that God is a contentment kind of God. It is learned while sitting on His lap. He is not the kind of teacher that phones it in. He is the one-to-one student-teacher ratio kind. God is very intimate, extremely personal, and has all the time in an infinity of infinities. Any deficiencies in the relationship always come from our side.

“If our lives are too busy, too self-absorbed, too full of media, and there is no room for communicating with our Maker, then the experience of contentment will be an academic exercise rather than a daily reality. Real contentment is only possible by being much in the presence of the Lord Jesus.”

Jesus wants this for us so much that He died to make it happen. He wants us to have the life He and He alone knows is the best one for us. All we have to do is want it, too, and obey His voice as He lovingly guides us.

Isaiah 30:21. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Burying Expectations: The Secret of Contentment Part II


Last spring, I dared to pontificate upon the Secret of Contentment.  Unfortunately (or otherwise) whenever one presumes to teach on a subject, all manner of new information is bound to be discovered about it afterward.  In my case, I found I had not yet acquired a very large piece to the contentment puzzle.  So God is now teaching me to bury my expectations.

 

It’s hard to live without any expectations.  We make plans and expect them to come to pass just as we outlined them.  We hope and dream for the future and expect that if we work hard enough our plans will come to pass.  Much discontentment is rooted in frustrated expectations.  I think nothing steals joy and causes anger, disappointment, and depression more than this.

 

Take a simple thing like transportation.  I get in the car and fully expect to arrive at my destination safely and in a reasonable amount of time.  Why do I expect that?  I’ve lived and driven in a major city for 35 years! I ought to have learned better by now.  I know that drivers are careless, reckless, insane!  I know full well that traffic jams are a thing, that accidents happen, that cars break down, that tires go flat.  And yet instead of acknowledging that every time I arrive anywhere unharmed and on time it’s purely by the grace of God, I get frustrated when things go wrong.

 

It’s impossible to get anything done without any plans, but if we expect our plans to go exactly the way we think they should, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and disappointment.

 

Proverbs 16:9  says “The mind of man plans his way,  But the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 19:21  “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD, it will stand.” Expectations are another way of trying to feel in control of our lives and circumstances.  If we can come to grips with the simple fact that we are actually in control of nothing, aside from our own behavior, we will be better able to be content in whatever life throws at us and whatever God gives to us.

 

I’ve been studying the book of Exodus lately, and it’s made me think a lot about false expectations.  I’m sure Moses did not expect freedom to take almost a year and ten horrible plagues.  And it was obvious that his people’s circumstances were growing a great deal worse before they finally got better.  Then, when the people were finally free and poised to enter the Promised Land, I’m sure 80-year-old Moses saw retirement and rest in his near future.  He surely did not expect the people to refuse to enter the land.  He must have been horrified to realize that it was his lot to lead these whiney, all-too-human people around the wilderness for 40 more long years.

 

Or maybe he wasn’t surprised after all.  After 80 years’ experience, perhaps he’d learned better than to believe in happily ever after in this life.  He was, as we are, living on a  battlefield in a fallen world.  The world is broken, and there are diseases and accidents and natural disasters that we can never plan for or avoid.  People are broken and have free will and sin natures and they will do whatever they please—we can never plan well enough to account for all the astonishing, bewildering, horrifying things people will do.

 

Jesus warned us:  “In this world you WILL have trouble”.  He never said He’d put us in a bubble to protect us from it.  He just promised He’d be there with us as we deal with it, and that HIS plans will prevail over all the worldly chaos, in His own time.

 

As my friends and I grow older, we have often commented to each other that our lives have not turned out as we had expected.  “I’ve done everything I was taught to.  I’ve done what I was supposed to.  I followed all the rules,” one friend said to me once as she suffered through a tragedy in her life that had happened due entirely to another’s actions.  “How is this my life now?”

 

That’s a hard question.  We may do the best we can with our lives, following Scripture and serving others; unfortunately, this does not prevent trying circumstances from coming our way.  But as Christians, we should not be living righteously in order to have good, trouble-free lives for ourselves.  We should be living for Christ and for Him alone.  Then we can trust Him, not to shield us from real life on a broken planet, but to guide us through it with our best interests in mind.  It’s also helpful (and perhaps comforting) to realize that our lives are not all about us.  God will use our trials to bless others and bring them into a greater knowledge of Him.   If we bury our expectations and focus our attention only on Him, we may find the freedom that comes from dying to self and, with that, true contentment

 

As I prayed about these hard questions, God, knowing full well how I think and what I need, gave me this poem.  I will now depress you all with it—but struggle on through to the end, because hope is there.

 

I Did Not Expect

Kneeling at the grave of “what ought to have been.”

Tombstone’s inscription reads, “Dreams, Hopes, and Plans,”

Costing a lifetime of doing my best,

Doing all that I know, doing all that I can,

 

Now buried beneath the deep muck of reality.

Body rotting, decaying more years than I knew.

Trading the corpse of the beauty I longed for;

Trading it in for the ugly but true.

 

Future now waits for me there in the dust:

A path through a graveyard I did not expect.

Can’t see the borders of this Potter’s Field,

Can’t see where it’s going—no sign to direct.

 

Can only see footprints that glimmer through twilight.

Can only hear whispers of “Come, Love, this way.”

Can only believe that the dead things, once buried,

Will germinate into new beauty one day.

 

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with making plans and dreaming dreams.  The wrong is in placing our hopes in our own dreams and plans and expectations. Our hope is to be in the Lord and in Him alone.  Everything else must be held loosely.

 

Romans 8: 23-25  “But we ourselves who have the Spirit also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our hope, because who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

Psalm 71:5  “For you, O Lord, are my hope; my trust, O Lord, from my youth.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Secret of Contentment


Most of you know me well enough by now: you know I’ve been happily married for 36 years, have four wonderful, grown children and three perfect grandchildren, and a job I love. You might think I’ve found contentment in these blessings. But I’m here to tell you:  contentment is never found in getting a particular job or marrying a particular spouse or achieving a particular lifestyle or in accumulating particular things—not even in accumulating books! (I know!) True contentment is found in choosing to be satisfied in whatever circumstances our loving God has placed us.
When I think of contentment, I generally picture curling up in a comfortable chair by a crackling fireplace, enjoying a good book while sipping a lovely cup of tea. In other words, I picture doing exactly what I want to do, free from care and responsibility. Happiness and comfort and satiation are often used as synonyms for contentment. But I’ve learned over my many years of living that this is not the Biblical concept of contentment.
You must all surely be familiar with Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol”. In it, Ebenezer Scrooge had everything he ever thought would give him a happy and comfortable, satisfying life—a successful business, a huge house, pots of money. Having these things is not evil, and one would think they would cause a contented life. So why was Scrooge such a miserable and despicable old man?
He wasn’t always miserable and despicable. When he was young, he was a good man who was personable enough to have wooed and won a lovely young woman called Belle. But Belle later broke off their engagement with these words: “Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were poor and CONTENT to be so, until in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry.” Scrooge went wrong, not with his goal of wanting to provide a good home and decent living for his impending bride, but in his discontent with his present circumstances. He became so discontented, he was willing to run roughshod over loved ones and complete strangers alike to get what he wanted. “Another idol has displaced me,” Belle said. “A golden one.”
Having goals is a good thing. Being happy, comfortable, and sated with good things is fine. But if we allow our goals, our happiness, our comfort to become our idols, running roughshod over God and everyone else to acquire them, we will inevitably lose our way. The surest path to discontentment – and to disaster! — is to make goals and plans for ourselves without asking for God’s guidance and then hoping God will bless what we have decided to do. This is the opposite of the way Christians are meant to live their lives. Listen to Paul’s words on the subject:
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
And when Paul says he knows how to be “brought low”, he is not exaggerating! Here’s another quote of Paul’s from II Corinthians 11: “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
These are not goals one generally sets for oneself! But we live in a fallen world and in a hostile environment. If we do not accept that hardship and sorrow are an inevitable part of life, we will never find contentment. I have learned this in my own life. I can’t compete with Paul’s list, thank goodness! But I have had to learn to be content with a very comfortable income and the comfortable life it brought; and with the loss of all those things, ending with my husband and me being homeless for a while. I have been healthy enough to hike the Appalachian Trail; and I have suffered illness so debilitating I was all but housebound for months on end. I have known the beauty of deep friendship and have been blindsided by betrayal. I have, with great joy, watched people I love accept Christ into their lives and try to live for Him; and I have, with indescribable grief, watched them turn their backs and walk away from Him. Through all of these extremes, God has taught me that contentment is not to be found in happiness, comfort, or in ordering my life in the way I would like.
Contentment is not happiness or living in comfort. In all of those circumstances which I just named, you might think I was happy during the good times and miserable during the bad times. But that would not be true. When we had plenty of money and material goods, I still found plenty of things to be unhappy about—all it takes is for someone to speak sharply to me or the landlord to raise the rent or the car to break down and my day is ruined. And in the months when we were homeless, I found a lot of joy in waking up in a lovely park watching the sun rise over a beautiful lake. Happiness is fleeting and is an impossible goal. We grow up on fairy stories in which the heroes and heroines pass through adversity and hardship and then live happily ever after, presumably untroubled until they died. But that is not real life. No one lives happily ever after in this world. There will always be something else to deal with; something else to suffer through; some other grief to overcome. Trying to build my life on a pursuit of happiness would be comparable to trying to build a house on a flock of butterflies; it’s not only impossible, it’s irrational to try it.
Neither is contentment found in ordering life just as one would like it. I have all too often heard myself say things like, “When things settle down, or when this ‘whatever’ is over, my life will get back to normal;” normal being a state of contentment. How many days, months, years do we waste, waiting for this or that circumstance to be over before we will allow ourselves to enjoy our lives? We refuse to live in an uncomfortable moment, always looking for the next thing to bring us happiness or comfort. But things never do settle down, do they? Life is never normal. I might get all my ducks in a row for a moment, but they quickly wander off in all directions. There’s always something! Choosing to live the life God has given me one day at a time, one moment at a time, in the knowledge that He is in control, is the secret to contentment. I learned this the hard way years ago when we had a ministry of taking in homeless people. I lived my life in a state of suspension: “when we get him or her settled in a job and a home, my life will get back to normal.” I was living in denial of the fact that my husband bringing a steady stream of stray people home from work WAS our normal life at that time. Instead of being content with the life of service God had given us, I was waiting to live the life I thought I wanted to live. I missed out on so much joy by being wilfully discontented.
Did you know that the opposite of contentment is covetousness? Have you ever wondered why “thou shalt not covet” is one of the Ten Commandments, right up there with “thou shalt not kill?” What’s wrong with wanting? We all want a better life for ourselves, don’t we? But being content is accepting the circumstances in which God has placed us and trusting that He knows what is best for us. Coveting—wanting—anything that God has not chosen to give us is tantamount to shaking our fists in His face and telling Him He’s made a terrible mistake: that what He’s given us is not good enough. Contentment is knowing that, although everything may not be good in and of itself, that “God works all things together for good to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) As Jesus assured His disciples in John 16:33, “In this world, you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Life is full of sorrow and adversity. This world is broken, sick, and perverse. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (I Corinthians 1:27-29)
God has shown me how to be content in many areas of my life, but the area in which He has spoken most audibly and emphatically is my health. When I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, I was, of course, sad that I could no longer eat doughnuts and fried shrimp, but that honestly has not really been a cause of unhappiness. What devastated me was not being able to take communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was years before we found a gluten-free substitute that allowed me to participate in communion again. Even then, taking my own little bit of cracker out of a protective container is not really the same as sharing a piece from the same loaf as the rest of the body. This was a great cause of grief to me, and Sunday after Sunday for weeks after my diagnosis I would weep and pray to be healed so that I could share in communion again. Finally, one Sunday, God spoke to me—I could hear His voice aloud in my ear: “Stop it. This is a gift, and you are to accept it as one.” He said this quite firmly, scolding me for my discontentment. I am still learning what it means that an incurable genetic disorder is a gift from God, but I have honestly tried to live my life in that knowledge since.
The process of continually choosing to be content in all circumstances is life-long and extensive. Most recently, I’ve been learning that being content is not the same thing as living in denial. I was diagnosed over a year ago with a degenerative eye disease, but even though I have had numerous appointments with retinal specialists, I found I was really not taking it seriously. The idea that I am truly, gradually, losing my eyesight was not real to me until I was asked to speak on contentment during a weekend retreat. As I prayed about what I should say on this subject, my eyes fell on my Amsler grid vision test. I look at this every day in order to help my doctor gauge how quickly my sight is changing, and yet I never acknowledged to myself that I am going to eventually become legally blind. It’s easy to be content while refusing to believe in the hard things that one is experiencing. But that is not true contentment. I had to spend some time alone with God and think through what this disease actually meant. I had to think of all the things I would be losing: seeing my grandchildren’s faces as they grow up; reading good books; writing stories and curriculum; enjoying trees and the beauty of nature; experiencing the glory of God in this world with my sight. I had to ask God some hard questions: “If I can’t see, can I still nurture my grandchildren; can I still teach my students? If I can’t see, can I still experience the wonders of creation? If I can’t see, will I still know the glory of God in the world? If I can’t see, can I still enjoy my life?” The answer to all these questions, He told me, is “yes”. But I am still struggling with the fear I can no longer allow myself to push away: fear of losing my ability to teach, to create, to minister in the ways He has given me to serve; fear of losing my freedom and becoming dependent on others. Learning to be content with losing my eyesight will be my greatest challenge yet.
Do not mistake contentment with complacency, however. As much as we enjoyed being homeless for a summer, my husband and I were glad to accept an offer to stay with friends until we could get back on our feet. I’ve learned to live with Celiac disease, but if someone came up with a cure, I’d be happy to try it. Contentment is not stoically enduring with gritted teeth, either, although patient endurance is a great part of it, drawing on the strength of the Holy Spirit rather than on our own strength. Contentment is a choice we make: choosing to trust a loving God to take care of us no matter what happens; choosing to trust Him to use everything He allows into our lives– easy or difficult, joyous or sorrowful—to make us into the people He means for us to become.
And in the end, when this old, broken world is remade into what it was meant to be, we will be remade as well. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) And it will all have been worth it!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized