Finding True Contentment: Every Mom’s Greatest Hope
- Thursday, April 14, 2005
"I realized just how much God loves us. I never knew the true depth of His love until I had our first child. I then understood unconditional love and what it meant to be a child of God."
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
~ Philippians 4:12-13
My friend Janie has the best attitude. I (Sharon) don't think I've ever heard her complain. She's always got an encouraging word to share and would never intentionally offend anyone. She keeps up with my birthday as well as other special events in my life, sending notes that are both uplifting and challenging. In one of her notes she wrote, "The joy and memories that you've made during these days are treasures more valuable than gold" (Matthew 6:19-21). She reminded me, "Lean on the Lord, having no doubts of His love for you" (Romans 8:38-39).
I've kept that letter in my bathroom for over a year, just so I could be reminded to lean on the Lord each day as I opened my medicine cabinet. Janie diligently studies God's Word, encourages others with His Word, lives a life that shines with contentment, and has a face that is radiant. She has a smile that won't quit and a laugh that is so sincere it makes her eyes squint.
Janie is that friend you could call who would be there no matter what, the friend that would do anything for you -- at least anything that her wheelchair would allow. You see, she was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that has kept her from walking her whole life and forced her to be dependent on others for even the simplest things. She's never been married and has no children. So how can she be so content?
The World's Solutions for Finding Contentment
I've often heard two pieces of advice given on talk shows, at church, and friend to friend about how to make yourself feel better, how to be more content. The first cure for discontentment goes something like this:
1. Look around; when you do, you'll always find someone who is worse off than yourself. That will help you have a thankful heart.
I've tried this strategy, sort of "guilting" myself into a thankful heart. It doesn't take long for me to find someone who has less money, a harder life, an unhappy marriage, a smaller house, or physical attributes that aren't particularly desirable. For a while it works, but those "good, thankful" feelings only last until I look outside of myself and see someone else whose situation is better than my own. Then it's easy to be envious and discontented all over again.
Another popular cure for gaining contentment with yourself is to simply:
2. Be positive.
There is nothing wrong with positive self-talk. Many times it's a choice we have to make, but being positive isn't the final cure. There are some days that I can stay upbeat, but other days fatigue, the weight of responsibility, and certain times of the month can steal my ability to see anything positive in my circumstances.
Janie has a thankful heart and an incredibly positive outlook on life, but she didn't become that way by finding someone worse off than herself or by just being positive. Her reasons for being content in her circumstances are by-products of the strength she finds in Christ. She has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which began on April 23, 1978 (the same day I started my relationship with Him), and from that time till now she has depended on Him and has grown to love Him with her whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
There is no other solution that can give you the ability to have a foundation of thankfulness--regardless of your situation or circumstances. Because of Christ, Janie has a grateful heart and a positive attitude that make her radiant even in her confinement.
So it doesn't really matter what our circumstances are. We opened this chapter with the Scripture written by Paul in Philippians 4:12-13. Paul said he had learned to be content in every circumstance; he knew what it was like to be in need and to have plenty. Sometimes as a struggling mom, I think, "Good for you, Paul, 'cause I'm not there!"
Paul's statement "I have learned the secret of being content" is truly amazing when you find out what Paul actually went through. He was whipped, beaten with rods, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked three times, and spent a day and night in the open sea--not exactly favorable circumstances by anyone's standards! (See 2 Corinthians 11:24-27.)
What was the secret he learned? In the next verse he says, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." The Message says it like this (v. 13): "Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am." Paul realized that his ability to be content came as a result of his strength through Christ, not because of himself or his circumstances, not because of positive self-talk or finding someone in a situation worse than his own.
You might ask, "As a mom, why do I need Jesus?" One mom said,
About a year ago I was completely exhausted from the quandary of who am I when all of the important people in my life needed me to be something different. I joined a small group Bible study and really started focusing major attention on my relationship with the Lord, and in that still, quiet voice, He reminded me of who I really am: His child. Now I bring that to all five of the wonderful blessings in my life, and I've found that I don't have to change who I am to meet their needs ... God just meets their needs through me! (Suzanne)
When your strength runs out you can lean on His strength. Lean on Him and never doubt His love for you. The key is not a religion; it's a real relationship with Jesus. If you go to church and just go through the motions He is not real to you. He can't do anything for you because you aren't truly trusting Him with your life.
Stop, Drop, and Restore your Soul
Did you know that God knows how many hairs you have on your head? (See Luke 12:7.) Do you care how many hairs you have on your head? I don't. But God cares about the little things in our lives. He cares that you need a good parking space at Wal-Mart when you have small children, or that you want your child to hit the ball instead of striking out, again. He cares about it all -- relationships with our husbands, children, in-laws, friends, co-workers.
Talk to Him about anything that concerns you. Thank Him for what He has done for you. (I really do pray for a parking place at Wal-Mart, and you would be amazed at the spots He has provided.) When we trust him with the little things it's easier for us to see His answers to the bigger problems in our lives.
1. When you find someone in a situation worse than your own, how long does your "thankful heart" last?
2. How does the statement "just be positive" make you feel as a suggestion for contentment?
3. What are your thoughts about having or needing a relationship with Jesus?
4. What are some things you've been worrying about? Have you prayed and asked for God's direction in these areas?
You know every problem I've faced, every disappointment, every person who has caused me pain. You understand my situation better than I do. Draw me to Your side, Father. Everything that has happened in my life hasn't been good, but You promise that all things will work into something good. Help me to see Your plan for my life. Thank You for making me a priority, for planning my life before my parents knew I was part of the plan. Help me live my life, not in my own strength, but in Yours. I want to depend on You, not the ideas the world offers. Help me grow to love You more and more every day. Thank You for washing away all the sins I've committed, even the ones I would be ashamed to tell anyone about. Thank You for giving me life. It's because of You, Jesus, that I have hope. In Your name I pray. Amen.
Making the Most of the Moments
1.Getting to know God. One of the best ways to make the most of the moments in your life is to spend some of those minutes getting to know God.
One mom shared: "Once I had children, my daily quiet time became extremely important. It is at that time in the morning that I can focus my thoughts, prepare for the day, ask God for help and wisdom. I need His help every day, and in drawing closer to Him, I am more content" (Michelle). How do you do that? Here are some ideas for you to try (we would never expect a busy mom to do them all).
A. When you go walking, pray--thank God for all He has done and ask Him to forgive you for anything that you know is a sin. Talk to Him about your concerns and requests. You can talk to Him all day long about what worries you, what makes you happy, sad, or exhausted. You have a constant companion, a friend who loves to share it all with you. He is the perfect friend!
B. Read God's Word. Read by yourself if you can; but even if you're reading your kids a Bible story, ask God to open your heart to hear what He wants to say to you. He can speak loudly through those stories!
C. Sometimes reading a book (like you're doing right now) can be part of your quiet time with the Lord. Using a devotional book or Bible study can keep you on track and focused on a particular area.
2. E-mail us!! If you invited Jesus to come into your life, we would love to know. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blessings
Excerpted from: Mom... and Loving It! by Laurie Lovejoy Hilliard and Sharon Lovejoy Autry. Copyright © 2005; ISBN 0764200399. Published by Bethany House Publishers. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
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