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Avoid the Thorny Path of Discontentment

  • Tiffany McDonald Contributing Writer
  • Published Nov 10, 2004
Avoid the Thorny Path of Discontentment

As a homeschooled student, I have had the chance to be home all day with my family. With that advantage, I have also had the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons that might have taken longer to learn if I had been in public school, separated from those I love. Though some of these lessons were enjoyable to discover, God has also taught me lessons that were not so enjoyable, but rather hard and painful—such as learning to be content in each situation in which He places me.

Too many times I have taken the thorny, harsh path of discontentment. Some days life seems to be crazy. There are things that I want to do that I can't do because there isn't enough time or there is too much happening. On these occasions, it is so easy to fall into discontentment, to resent that things aren't going "my way," and to become bitter. Even though we participate in activities together as a family, it seems that we never have enough leisure time. There are nine children in my family, with three five years old or younger. We also run an online bookstore and publish a magazine, so we always have something going on.

"My sister used all of my stickers that I was going to send to my pen-pal," I brood. "The laundry for eleven family members is behind because I haven't worked on it for almost a week; my list of school work seems to be piling up; and one of my younger sisters who is being potty trained plugged up the toilet today and then just kept on flushing until it overflowed and flooded the bathroom! Then I had to clean up the mess and no one helped me! I mean, that never happens in our neighbor's house. Their children are so good—they never get into things that don't belong to them! Why couldn't our family be like that?"

Instead of thanking God for the many blessings He has bestowed upon me and instead of trusting Him, I wonder why He allowed my day to be so crazy.

There are times when I find myself wishing for a life God has not chosen for me. Sometimes at night, when the house is quiet, I snuggle beneath my warm, thick comforter and begin to reflect upon my life.

Glumly, I remembered visiting some friends in their home. They have three children who have graduated from high school and no longer have babies to watch and messes to clean. Envy had filled my heart as I looked around their house and noticed that their living room was spotless. There were no puzzle pieces under the coffee table waiting to be put back where they belong. They didn't have mud stains on the carpet by the door from little feet or coffee stains by the counter from chubby fingers reaching for a good sip of sweetened coffee and cream—and no dirty diapers to change! Their time seemed to be their own. I imagined relaxing on the couch with a good book and no noisy toddlers running about. I envisioned eating a piece of cake without a four-year-old climbing in my lap asking for a bite. Peace! Why couldn't our family be that way?

Discontentment began to creep in and take dominion over my life. Every day I would find some other fault with our family, some other reason to be jealous. My every thought seemed to begin with, "If only. . . ."

The babies began to become burdensome to me; they were no longer a joy to be around. To me, it seemed that each day brought more messes and even more laundry to fold and put away. I thought it was the babies who were being grumpy when, in reality, it was I.

Then this verse in Scripture hit me in the head: "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them" (Psalm 127:3-5a, NKJV). I began to think about what our family would be like without the five youngest children in our family. Sure, the house would be cleaner, but would that really matter to me if I had to sacrifice my sweet little brother and sisters for a perfectly clean house?

The discontented spirit had begun to weigh me down. I had been cross, mean, and miserable. When I could bear it no longer, I finally cried out to the Lord to pull me out of the "miry pit" of selfishness I had created. I asked Him to set my feet on a "firm foundation," which reminded me of one of my favorite hymns. The fourth verse of "How Firm a Foundation" has encouraged me often. It reads:

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design

Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."

God is sovereign, and though we don't always know what His plan is or why, He has known since before the foundations of the world.

When He brings you through "fiery trials," trust Him; pray for His all-sufficient grace. Be content with where He has you. When you are tempted to covet your neighbor's family, remember that "No temptation has overcome you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13, NKJV).

Ask Him to give you strength—the strength and peace that come only from Him. As the hymn so powerfully says, "The flame shall not hurt thee." He is bringing you through this trial to consume your dross (impurity) and to refine your gold. Instead of falling into discontentment, seek God, realizing that this is all part of His plan for you and that it is for His ultimate purpose and glory. Willingly allow Him—no, ask Him to consume your dross, to get rid of all the junk in your heart, and to refine your gold until it shines and glistens with the purity and goodness of a true maiden of virtue and worth. "The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold" ( Psalm 45:13, NJKV).

As I sit back and review my journey, I realize that when I am content, a peaceful spirit covers me, and life seems to run smoothly, even if things are not going my way. The complete opposite happens when I keep my eyes on what others have or dwell on what I think I should have. As I enter into adulthood, I pray that God will continue to remind me of the lessons I have learned and that I will maintain a spirit of trust and thankfulness, knowing that He is sovereign and that His plan is flawless.

The above article was written by a homeschool student under the tutorage of a writing teacher from
Tiffany McDonald is the second oldest daughter of James and Stacy McDonald. Tiffany is slowly learning to be content in all things as she prepares for her future as a keeper at home. She loves reading, writing, cooking, and experimenting in the kitchen with her crème brûlée torch! She loves beautiful dresses from days gone by and has a passion for poetry and Reformation history.
Originally published in Homeschooling Today magazine - all rights reserved.
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