Contentment

06/19/2004

Where do we find contentment in life? The world will tell us itís in the newest hair product, or the house weíve always dreamed of, perhaps a job that puts us in a position of authority in a large corporation, or maybe the perfect vacation. When our circumstances are perfect, when our hair is perfect, when our homes are the perfect picture of what weíve always dreamed they should be, or weíre relaxing on a beach in the Tropics, then we can rest in the satisfaction that comes with that perfection...thatís what the world tells us. What does God say?

"Look at the lilies and how they grow. They donít work or make
their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as
beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers
that are here today and gone tomorrow, wonít he more surely care for
you? You have so little faith! And donít worry about foodówhat to eat
and drink. Donít worry whether God will provide it for you. These
things dominate the thoughts of most people, but your Father already
knows your needs. He will give you all you need from day to day if
you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern."
Luke 12:27-31 (NLT)

We squash God, we really do. We minimize who He is and the great power that He has to meet our every need. We live in a world with definite borders and limitations and time allotments and we have a great deal of trouble thinking outside of that box.

We praise God, we lift Him up and worship Him, but do we really grab hold of Who HE is--that He created the world we live in and that He created every single one of us? Do we really grab hold of the truth that God has no limits, no time restraints, no blocked vision, no lack of strength or wisdom thatís needed for anything in our lives?  Do we fully comprehend that He sends the rain, or withholds the rain, that He brings a new child into this world or takes one home to be with Him? Do we really comprehend that God is in complete control every second of every day and the very hairs on our heads are known to Him? Weíve read that, weíve heard that, but do we believe that? I donít think so, or weíd be living our lives so totally different than we do most days.

Why did God create us? I listened to a song this morning and the words said "God created us for the pleasure of knowing us."

But that seems way too simple; it has to be more difficult than that. If thatís the truth, then why am I so stressed out about what I should be "doing" for God? It doesnít seem to be enough to simply rest in my relationship with Him and get to know Him better.

In James 2:18 it says:

Now someone may argue, "Some people have faith; others
have good deeds." I say, "I canít see your faith if you donít have
good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds."

The Pastor in the little church we attended in Fallon, Nevada this last Sunday used this verse. He reminded us that itís not about the good deeds we do that earn our salvation, but they will come as a result of our faith walk. The problem is that so many of us want to start with the good deeds to try and earn what we have been freely given. We get the cart before the horse, so to speak, and live in that confused state most days.

But letís take a moment and think about God, and who He really is. We couldnít take the next breath if He didnít give it to us. He saw us in our motherís womb before we were even born. He even knows when we step out our front door if we are heading into a good day or total disaster. Watching a show the other night about a police officer that went on a call reminded me of this. This officer was rear-ended on his way to the call, and as a result of the crash, he was burned beyond recognition. He has had a long fight back to some normalcy in this life. I donít know the reasons why bad things happen other than we live in a fallen world, but as he took that call, God already knew how this manís whole life would be changed. He is with us through it all, the good and the bad. Sometimes we turn to God in those times; sometimes we still try to make it on our own.

We never know what is just around the corner, success or great failure, health or a terminal illness, love or betrayal. We donít know, but God doesóHe knows, He cares and He never leaves us in our trials and the hardships we face in this world. But too often we fail to depend on Him in all things. We sort of free-fall through life hoping the "sudden stops" along the way wonít destroy us completely.

Why donít we have the understanding we should about our Creator? God wants us to know Him, and find our satisfaction and contentment in Him, but we donít most times. We cling to things that can never satisfy and work towards goals that we think will bring us the happiness we are seeking. When truth be told, we will be the very same people when we "arrive" as we are now. When we have a large, beautiful home, we will still be Diane, or Tom, or Leslie, or Bill. We will walk through those large front doors into that spacious living room and when we sit down on the couch and look around, the only satisfaction and contentment we will find will be in our own hearts. If it wasnít in us before, we wonít find it in a new home, in a new car, in a new job or in a new country we might choose to live in. It just wonít be there! It might seem for a moment in time that we have "arrived," but it will be fleeting. Who we are in Christ is where our satisfaction is found each day.

Isnít that cool?
Really, it is the coolest thing ever!
The reason it is so cool is because that wherever we are right at this moment in time, this can be the best moment of our lives! It means that we donít have to achieve any form of success, or promotion or acquire any material possessions to make us happier than we are at this very moment! It means we can be so completely satisfied in the deepest part of our being without moving one step or changing one situation in our present lives. The only thing we need to do is to sit still and be with our God, absorbing the full reality of His love for us and His care for us, and the power that He holds in one hand to take care of our every need each day. It doesnít mean life will be perfect, it means we know Whoís in control and we need not fear.

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you, my whole body longs for you
In this parched and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your
power and glory. Your unfailing love is better to me
than life itself; how I praise you!
I will honor you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you
in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest of foods.
I will praise you with songs of joy. I like awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night. I think how much you have
helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings.
I follow close behind you; your strong right hand holds me securely.
Psalm 63:1-8 (NLT)

This was not written by a man who was living a dream life in a dream home and driving his dream car...this was written by a man who longed for God "in a parched and weary land where there is no water." His troubles were with him, but so was his God, and his God satisfied him "more than the richest of foods." His heart sang for joy under Godís protective wings, and he felt secure.

Yes we will have days where there is so much good stuff going on, we are just gleeful, that might be the only word for it! But those days end sooner or later. Then we will have days when the phone call we get is devastating, our friend is dying of cancer. One day we are thanking God for all His goodness, the next we are wondering where God is when life hurts. Whereís the healthy balance between the two?

The healthy balance is found in a continuous, ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. He is our Rock, our sure foundation, and the only true satisfaction and contentment we will ever find on this earth.

"Their life will be like a watered garden, and all their sorrows will be gone.
The young women will dance for joy, and the menóold and youngówill
join in the celebration. I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort
them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing. I will supply the priests
with an abundance of offerings. I will satisfy my people with my bounty.
I the Lord, have spoken." Jeremiah 31:12-14 (NLT)

The Lord has everything we will ever need, and we donít have to go far to find it. It is found in our own hearts. We get so busy running around this world looking for what will satisfy, what will comfort, what will make us a success or what we think we should be doing for Him, that we miss the great love He is holding out to us. "Come sit with me," He says, "and I will satisfy your every need with my bounty."
Why do we think that will not be enough?
Why do we think that with the entire universe in Godís hands, we will not be satisfied with what He gives to us from that abundance?
Is it because we are looking for what will not satisfy us instead of what will?
I think so. I think we are confused about what we really need in our lives.

As I sit here in this RV park just outside the small town of Fallon, Nevada, it is quiet. The cars pass by about 100 yards away on Highway 50, heading in and out of town, and I can hear the birds chirping in the trees outside my window. Jim has gone off to his job for the day, and I will be alone for the most part. I will have prayed and studied and as Iím doing now, I will write about the journey through life. I have pulled out my violin from under our bed and am excited about learning to play an instrument that has intrigued me since I was five years old. At mid-week, I will be renting a car and driving back to the Bay Area to attend a bridal shower for my future daughter-in-law, and visit with friends and family for a time.

There are some big events coming up with our sons getting married this year, and there are the tiny things in life like learning to play an instrument, or going for a bike ride on the country roads that surround us here. There are high points like trips planned, and low points like phone calls that share the not-so-good news of another. But through it all, what is the constant? It is my Lord. It is sinking into my heart deeper and deeper that life is ever changing and hard times come and go just as the good times do, but no matter where I am or what I am doing, the satisfaction found in God alone can be so complete and so satisfying that nothing else is needed. Everything else is just gravy on the top of an already perfect "meal."

"Perfect" you might say? How can that be? Your son died 2 ½ years ago at the age of 16, how can life be perfect after that?
Perfect you might say? Your Dad is suffering with Parkinsonís disease; doesnít it depress you to see him failing?
Perfect you might say? You are away from family and friends and live a solitary life in a small town in Nevadaóa very simple life after having lived in Germany.
How can there be perfection in each day, isnít the thrill of life gone?

Iím here to tell you, it is not!
The thrill of life is not found in the things we do, or the circumstances that surround us, the thrill is found in the simplicity of an awesome God who is so magnificent that just a moment spent in His presence is more satisfying than anything this world can offer. I get up each day just excited at the thought that God is waiting for me to meet with Him. For the first time in my entire life, I have become a morning person. I am up by 7 a.m. and ready to start my day.

Jim and I were talking about some of our favorite things yesterday. About our favorite animals, and our favorite foods. Jimís favorite food is a good steak, and in thinking about what mine was, I think it is probably lobster. To dip a nice piece of lobster in to some warm butter and place it in my mouth is almost a heavenly experience. Thereís something perfect about it, something that satisfies with each bite, never diminishing as the meal progresses. Maybe thatís because weíre never really given enough lobster with a meal to completely satisfy...it always seems to leave me wanting for more.

When I think of a moment spent in Godís presence, it is sort of like that bite of lobster, but so much more. Each moment in the Most Holy Place is way beyond what this world has to offer for comfort. When I sit at the Aís game this coming Thursday, I will be someplace that I truly enjoy, but it will not fill me up like Godís presence does. When I watch our sonís get married this year, there will be great joy in my heart for the futures I will watch them step into, but it will not compare to the joy found in God alone. Time spent with Him, intimately, is the most satisfying thing on earth.

God is not afraid of us enjoying this earth He created, in fact, He wants us to live an abundant life. I think He has no fear of that because He knows that nothing we do here, nothing we see here, nothing we experience here can come close to just being with Him. From the simplest thing we might do to the grandest, He not only created it all for us, He rises above it all in a way that words cannot express.

When we find that to be true of Him and when we spend the time getting to know Him in that way, that is when we can truly enjoy the life He has provided for us, being content and fully satisfied in all situations.

I donít have a contented heart because of my circumstances. Given the choice, I want my youngest son with me today! I want to be able to hug him and I want to watch him get married in the future too. I want to love his children the way I will love my other boysí children in the future. I want to make a date for lunch with him like I have with our middle son Chris this Friday. I want to be able to call him on the phone and hear the about the exciting things that are happening in his life like I did with our oldest son Jimm yesterday, and give him words of encouragement when life gets him down too. I want that relationship with him, but I cannot have it. It is gone from me. Those needs can no longer be satisfied because of these earthly circumstances. It is an impossibility, but with God all things are possible.

No, God will not be returning my son to me on this earth. But He can and is doing so much more than that. He is showing me that life can be lived joyfully after the greatest heartbreak a mother can ever imagine. He is showing me that His powers of restoration far outweigh the powers of the enemy for destruction. He is showing me that if I will keep my focus on Him at all times, life can be lived in a way where circumstances including the good and the bad make no difference when it comes to a heart that is fully satisfied in Him.

...true religion with contentment is great wealth.
1 Timothy 6:6

What is "true religion?"
Just as "born again" gets a bad rap these days, I think the word "religion" does too. Christians donít like to describe what they believe in as a religion, but rather as a relationship with Jesus Christ. Religion can be full of empty rituals, void of emotion or understanding for why they are practiced. It may just be something handed down to us from past generations and we may not even have a clue as to why we still do it.

Itís sort of like the story of the lady who always cut off both ends of the ham before she cooked it. When asked why she did this, she said it was because thatís the way her mother always did it, although she didnít know why. When she finally asked her mom why she cut off both ends of the ham before cooking it, her mother replied, "Because then it would fit into the pan."

I donít want to practice a religion without knowing the reasons for my actions. I want a vital, living, present-day relationship with my Savior that is personally mine. When I meet my Savior and He asks me why I did what I did on earth, I donít want it to be "Because thatís the way my mother did it." I want it to be, "Because thatís the way You and I agreed it should be as we spent time together."

Thatís not religion, thatís relationship. Thatís not discontent because of some vague idea of God, thatís "religion with contentment" because of the sure foundation it sits on each day.

We will not always have great wealth on this earth; some of us will never experience great wealth at all. We will not always have those we love nearby, and we will not always keep the job we love. We may not always have our health or the multitude of things we have today that seem to satisfy our needs. The only thing we will always have is God. He never changes, and when we turn to Him, He is always there.

I write this because I have "been there" and Iím coming back. I have been taken down hard, slammed into the ground, held under turbulent water until I could not breathe...I was living a seemingly satisfying, comfortable life with a great husband and three healthy boys when a "tornado" called Leukemia blew through our home and singled out our youngest son. Over the next 5-Ĺ years that tornado tossed him and turned him and bruised him and sucked the life right out of him. I was there at his bedside when what was left of that "tornado" lifted him out of his earthly body and he disappeared into the heavenly realms. I can no longer find my satisfaction and contentment in something so open to exposure to earthly elements. I have had to find a "storm shelter" that is secure no matter what winds may blow if I am to live the rest of my days in joy and contentment.

At the moment I have all I needómore than I need...
And this same God who takes care of me will supply
all your needs from his glorious riches, which have
been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:18a-19 (NLT)

Heaven is full of Godís riches, but we will never experience them on earth if we donít visit with our Father and get to know Himóitís in the time spent with Him that allows His glorious riches to fill our hearts to overflowing. The world may not see our "bounty" but we will know that it is there because it fully satisfies.

We are all working towards something, whether it be a new job, a new ministry, a better relationship with our spouse, rearing our children, building a new home, this is normal human nature. What we need to remember is that the "what" we do is not of utmost importance, itís the "Who" that we share our lives with each day that we should concentrate on. Then however long the wait is, and whatever tomorrow holds, we can already be living in the satisfaction of it. The accomplishments we strive for and achieve, or those that fail, are not where our contentment is found. When the Kingdom of God is our primary concern, today, right here, right now and in this very space and time all things are complete in Him.

God asks no more of us than to know Him. In knowing Him, we will love Him. Then we will truly be able to love each other and accomplish all that He desires to do through us during our brief time here on this earth.

A fully satisfying life is found in Him each day. There is no better way to live.

Serving Him,

Diane