Sunday, January 17, 2010
Holy Habit of Contentment ... post 1
I'm not really a retreat gal, but a few friends from my Bible study group, begged me to come along. Actually, they made me a deal I couldn't refuse. (Thanks Cheryl!). As usual, God knew it was exactly what I needed and just what my heart longed to hear. This and the following posts are a bit of summary of what I heard.
The topic was contentment ... right away the topic pulled at me. As the speaker talked during our first session, I realized that 'the something's not right' feeling I'd been having was discontentment. I had somehow slipped out of the comfort of contentment a few weeks back. Not only was I discontent with my circumstances, but worse, I was harboring bitterness. I'm not sure when I turned a corner in my walk, allowing this bitterness to join my path, but that is where I found (find) myself.
Our speaker, Amy, began by talking about what contentment is:
* being centered on Christ
* appreciation for what God's done
* faith in what He will do
and what it is not (stoicism or Pollyiannaism). Contentment is not ignoring our circumstances and pain, or glossing over it by saying everything is "fine". It's okay to have a 'weeping heart' but don't loose sight of Jesus. There is a balance between having a heart that longs for what's to come and a discontent heart. Contentment is having a calm and quiet heart because your eyes are fixed on Jesus, not on your circumstances.
We can be content because better days are ahead - Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. We trust Him, serve Him, take our cup and portion from Him and be content. I'll get more into why we are to be content later, but for now, I just want to focus on Amy's accountability checklist she gave us. She took this from a missionary named, Ella (sorry didn't catch the last name):
Holding your self accountable to contentment by:
* Never allowing yourself to complain about anything - not even the weather.
* Never picture yourself in any other circumstance or place.
* Never compare your lot with another.
* Never allow yourself to wish this or that would've been different.
* Never dwell on tomorrow. Tomorrow is God's not ours.
This list made me pause and ask myself, which of these are my temptations, my tendencies? Doing anyone of these can slip me right into discontentment by causing wallowing and anxiety. It takes my eyes off Jesus and purpose and puts it on myself. It's looking inward, rather than upward. When we (I am) are discontent, we (I am) are useless to God. I want to be able to say, like Paul, 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. (Phil, 4: 11-13)
What about you? Do you struggle with contentment, bitterness, worry, anxiety?