A few evenings ago, my husband Tim and I were talking about contentment. We realized that to change an attitude of discontentment to one of contentment took a re-framing of perspective. While we were talking I got a bit of a word picture from my experience teaching outdoor leadership. [You know me, I like word pictures because they make so much sense]. I will attempt to paint that picture for you.
Imagine you are hiking along a trail, headed up to a mountain peak. It is the first time you have been on it, so it is unfamiliar to you. On both sides of the trail is thick bush and it’s difficult to actually see the ridge you’re wanting to reach. As you continue hiking up this trail you notice that it begins to curve, as you perceive, away from the ridge that you know you need to get to. You begin to panic just a little, because you’re not sure you can trust the trail to take you where you want to go. You have two options, you can continue along the trail, anxiously seeing if it’s actually going to go where you want it to, or you can venture off into the bush and attempt to bushwhack your way to the ridge. You may make it to the ridge from your bushwhack, but it won’t be easy and there is more risk involved in the process.
What is your choice? What do you trust?
If you had done this hike before, you would know that trail does indeed follow the best route and is the easiest way to the top.
How often has this happened to you in life? I know I’ve experienced it a few times. Where I know I’m on the path that God has me on, but some things come up, or it heads in a direction that I’m unsure about. In some instances, yes, I wanted to jump ship, maybe figure it out for myself, but that never works out the way we think it should. For me this is what contentment is: staying the course, sticking to the trail, trusting in God’s faithfulness, choosing to rejoice and not being anxious, letting Him guide and direct as He sees fit.
But godliness is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
1 Timothy 6:6-8
It’s so simple, and yet so hard to actually do, because once again it takes faith and trust.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:3-9
I’ve been finishing up my study of Philippians and have been pondering a lot about what it means to be content and to have joy. Both concepts are so intertwined. In Philippians, Paul talks a lot about having joy in the midst of our circumstances, and in Thessalonians and James he talks about joy in this midst of struggles and trials. As you read through these letters, there is a very definite correlation between joy and contentment. When we look at the definition of each, we see that joy is a “feeling of great pleasure and happiness” and contentment is a “state of happiness and satisfaction”. Near the end of Philippians Paul goes on to tell us that he has learned to be content regardless of his circumstances.
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I know this has been a big challenge for us over the past few months and it is something we need to remind ourselves of daily. God has always proven Himself to be a trustworthy Shepherd and Guide. It would be foolish of us to panic and try and go our own way.
Where are you at along your trail? Content with where God has you for the time being, or anxious about what may be ahead?
*Originally posted on The Eddy Blog 2016