The struggle with contentment

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Over a year ago I was having a conversation with a friend while we were walking.  We were talking about a certain fashion label and how much we loved their jackets.  Our conversation ended up with us both admitting that no matter how much we had, we always want more.  We were talking about wanting more stuff. New furniture, designer hand bags, new clothes, etc.

This candid conversation has always stayed with me.  It exposed a part of my heart.  An insatiable desire for more. I am incredibly blessed; I have more than most.  And yet, I find my heart wandering into discontentment and a desire for more.

Allowing my heart to be discontent is a dangerous thing, because where does it end?

Discontent with my appearance?

Discontent with my stuff?

Discontent with friendships? 

How about discontent with my marriage? 

It is easy to recognize the danger when you are looking at it from a removed situation.  The problem is not my things, the problem is my heart.

After the conversation with my friend, I did some soul searching.  I most certainly did not want to become a woman who always needed more.  I recognized that my life was great and that what I had to work on was choosing to be content and see that what I have is great; and not allow my heart to always see what I want or think I should have.    

How do I combat my moments of discontentment? I purposefully and intentionally thank my God daily for all that I have.  I choose to see the blessings that I have, and not the things that I do not have.  I choose to see the good in my life and have a heart of gratitude to my God.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” Philippians 4:6,7.

I have come to realize that this instruction is in the Bible because it is so easy to be discontent; to default to a heart that is selfish and greedy instead of thankful and grateful.   We must seek our God with a heart of gratitude for all the good if we are to overcome our discontentment.   This is an action that takes intention, work and practice.

“…for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything, I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13.

You have a choice to make. You can choose to want more. Or you can choose to take a step back and see all the blessings in your life.

Try it. Right now I want you to list 10 things you are grateful for. Thank God for each of those 10 things. And each time you catch yourself with a heart of discontentment, make a choice to replace it with 5 things you are grateful for. Do that each time. And slowly that heart of discontentment starts to change to that of gratitude. And I promise, you will be much more pleasant to be around when you choose to see the good in your life.

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Act on it

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I have recently read through the Book of Acts.  This book brings me awe.  It humbled me, challenged me, and taught me.  It brought me to tears more than a few times.  It depicts a radical faith, one that I can only strive to have. It’s a story of one man taking on the ancient world with a big story, the story of Christ.

One thing struck me.  God works in unexpected ways that are way bigger than anything we could imagine or foresee.  To give you a bit of background, Paul was a Roman citizen and an expert Jew, highly trained.  He was a Christian hater and torturer.   This very same man, who after meeting God on a road in a radical way, turned his life around and spent his life telling everyone everywhere about the hope of Christ.  Wow.  Just wow!

God is just as powerful and awesome today. We can choose to serve and believe in the same Lord.  This great story doesn’t end here.

Paul was beaten, jailed, threatened, disowned, rejected, shipwrecked, stood trials from Jerusalem to traveling to Rome from false accusations, and yet he never wavered.  He stood strong. He refused to give up.  He refused to back down, even in the face of death.

How God works can sure be ironic at times, and yet so effective.  God works in the unexpected. Paul had to stand trial for his faith more than once. And what did he choose to do at these trials?  This radical man chose to tell entire courtrooms of powerful and influential people of his day about his conversion story from a radical Christian-torturer to becoming a radical follower of Jesus.  He witnessed to entire rooms of prominent people. This infuriated the crowds of accusers.  The Jewish people plotted to kill him.

But being born a Roman citizen gave him a very unique vantage point.  Not just any one could mess with him.  Being a Roman citizen gave him access to Roman law.  A Roman citizen could not be punished until being guilty of a crime.  So Paul appears before a Roman Governor, and shares his same story.  But they cannot find him guilty.  And he appears again before a King with all his prominent men and military officers, and shares his story again.  And once that is inconclusive, Paul appeals to Caesar and is sent to Rome where he spends the next 2 years freely sharing the Good news of Christ.

See the irony in this all?  The more he stood firm in what he believed and spoke truth, the grander the audiences God gave him to speak in front of. He was able to witness to the most influential people in the ancient world at that time.  He shared God’s story with sincerity and passionate conviction.  The Jews in Jerusalem falsely accused him hoping to get him sentenced to death.  Instead they set the stage for Paul to share his story on an even larger and grander scale than anyone could have imagined.  God had a plan, and Paul trusted God to fulfill that plan even when Paul did not see how that would happen.

What faith!  What an example he left us. 

I challenge you to live out your faith in a big way.  We are not all given grand stages on which to proclaim God’s story, but we definitely can proclaim it.  Live with so much integrity that your life tells a story.  Take the road less traveled. Reach out and love your neighbors, your co-workers, your family, your friends, even those difficult people that seem impossible.  Show love in a world of haters.  Choose to walk by faith in a fact-based world.  Choose to forgive when you have been hurt.  Be the person who you always wish you had in your life. 

You will never regret taking the high road in life.