Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Pursuit of Contentment, Part One

By Caitlin Williams
I have a tattoo on my left wrist. 
It’s a word written in Greek, and people often ask me to explain its meaning.  It means “freedom”. More often than not, that’s as detailed of an answer as time permits. People who don’t know me very well usually respond with something like, “Oh, so you’re a free spirit”— implying that I must be wild or rebellious. I always laugh because that’s the farthest thing from the truth.  …Unless your definition of “wild” includes spending Friday nights doing laundry and watching Runaway Bride for the 115th 116th time. Nope. 

The word etched into my wrist is “eleutheria”.  The only English equivalent is the word “freedom”, but it means more than that. Specifically, it is the state of being unbound or set free from some kind of captivity. It’s the word used in 2 Corinthians 3:17:

For the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

When I got this tattoo, it was to serve as a reminder of everything that the Lord has set me free from. Now, layered on top of that, it’s serving as a reminder of the things that He gives me freedom through. One of those things is contentment. 

Being content means that we are fully satisfied in the Lord and where He has us in life, regardless of our circumstances. Being discontent robs us, as believers. More importantly, it’s disrespectful to Christ and it belittles what he’s done for us. Contentment allows us to live in the freedom that Christ gave His life to give us. For the sake of perspective, I’ll share a recent example of a circumstance that has tested and continues to test my ability to remain content.  

I was supposed to be getting married this month. Almost nine months ago, the man that I thought I would get to spend my life with called to tell me that he had changed his mind. I’ll never forget the first words he said as I answered the phone. “Caitlin, I’ve lied to you.” I had everything I had ever wanted in him, and God sat by and let me lose it.

In the months that followed, that’s very much how I felt. I felt like God was sitting idle while my life fell apart. It felt like He was intentionally allowing painful things into my life and keeping good things, even things that would seemingly bring Him glory, out.  

At the fever pitch of my grief and anger, I caught a glimpse of His purpose. Up to that point, I only thought I was looking to the Lord to satisfy my every need and desire. I wasn’t. I had wrapped all of that up in one single, flawed man. When that didn’t work, I continued to stubbornly seek out happiness in people and situations. Nope. Wrong. 

The Lord, in His grace, was trying to break me of that habit and bring me into complete submission to Him. He was saying, “I am your joy! I am your security! I, alone, know the number of hairs on your head!”  It is the Lord - it is Christ - who ends our suffering and satisfies our souls.

So…through this hard season, I’ve learned a thing or two about contentment. In these next two posts, we will look at three things that cause us to be discontent, and what His Word has to say about them.

ONE: Fear and doubt. These two things go hand in hand. One creates the other. Sometimes when we’re not content with our lives or our present circumstances, especially when something bad has happened, it’s because we don’t trust God. We feel betrayed by Him. We don’t trust that He will keep His promises.

Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. Indeed, the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows! 
(Luke 12:6-7)

Jesus was talking to people who were letting their circumstances get the best of them, causing them to fear instead of trust. In my mind, I imagine that Jesus was getting a tad frustrated and used this analogy almost to make them feel silly for being so afraid. The moral of that story is we matter to Him — our well-being and our happiness matter to Him. 

He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? (Romans 8:32)

Don’t skip over that very important preposition toward the end. With. He promises that with Him, with Christ, He will give us everything. Not with a husband, not with a new job, with Jesus.

You will keep in perfect peace the mind that is dependent on You, for it is trusting in You 
(Isaiah 26:3).

When I’m looking for comfort, I usually go to Isaiah. But the comfort there comes with some stipulations. The stipulation in this verse is trust. He gives perfect peace to the mind that is dependent on Him. Why? Because he knows that it is a mind that trusts Him. We don’t get the peace without the trust.

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Lord, Your love is eternal; do not abandon the work of Your hands (Psalm 138:8).

This verse reminds us that when things happen that shake our happiness or when we just feel stuck, it’s okay to bring it to God’s attention as long as it comes from a spirit of faith and not of doubt. David first says what he believes to be true — the promise. The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Then, he petitions God to stay true to that promise and bring it to pass.  

Are you struggling with fear and doubt today? Then please pray with me, and we'll pick up where we left off next week.

Father, It is out of your mercy that you desire us to turn to you, alone, for fulfillment and satisfaction. We will only ever be truly content at your feet. For some of us, this has been a lesson hard learned. I'm thankful that you are relentless in your effort to bring each of us under complete submission to you. I ask though, that in this process, you bring comfort with your discipline and healing to our weary hearts. As we learn what it means to live in the freedom of your contentment, sustain our hope. I ask these things with expectant faith in the precious name of your son, Jesus. 


Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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