Awaken the virtue of contentment through the discipline of "ars morendi."  Contentment will give you the hope you need to pursue the unsatisfied life in a satisfying way.  Life is difficult in this fallen world, so you don't need to pretend that all is well.  Instead, you can acknowledge the limitations of this life and seek God's help to respond to them well by embracing the hope He offers you.  God's hope doesn't depend on your circumstances; it rests on His assurance that He will always be with you, working everything out for the best when you place your trust in Him.  So you don't need to worry or be envious of others.  The spiritual discipline of "ars morendi" - the art of dying well - will train you to put your selfish desires to death so you'll be free to accept the life that God has willed for you to experience.  As you surrender your own agenda and embrace life as it really is rather than as you wish it was, and as you invite God to teach you what He wants you to learn from your circumstances, you can break free from the burden of constantly wanting more and experience contentment that will lead to peace.

Awaken the virtue of generosity through the discipline of compassionate imagination.  Generosity will help you love God and other people openhandedly, which reflects the wholehearted way that God expresses His love for you.  When you're generous, you'll be able to love fully, richly, and deeply, and it will be a joy, rather than a duty, for you to do so.  The spiritual discipline of compassionate imagination will help you to become more generous as you imagine the pain that people in need are suffering and the grace God has given to you to be in a position to help them.  Imitating Jesus' empathy for others will help you develop a willingness to say "yes" when God calls you to be generous to people in need - with your money, your time, your praise, your forgiveness, and in any other way God urges you to express generosity.

Adapted from Awakening the Quieter Virtues, copyright 2010 by Gregory H. Spencer. Published by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com

Gregory H. Spencer (Ph.D., University of Oregon) is professor of communication studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, where he has taught since 1987. A frequent speaker at various churches and college campuses around the country, he is also the author of A Heart for Truth: Taking Your Faith to College, as well as two novels, The Welkening and Guardian of the Veil. He has been married to Janet for more than 30 years, and they have three daughters in their 20s. 

Publication date: November 1, 2010