The number of times I have heard the words “This is why we can’t have nice things, Amber” is…well, I haven’t counted and I don’t really want to.
Bottom line: I am more reckless than I am careful. Sadly, this reckless nature does not only pertain to objects (insert frowny face). My recklessness reaches even the shores of emotional energy output, words, and boundaries.
I recognize this weakness in my character all too clearly. I have prayed since I was a teenager that God would reveal to me the things in my heart that need to be burned down in order that He might rebuild them into something useful.
Be careful what you pray for, my friends, because God is One who answers prayers!
All joking aside, God not only hears us when we come to Him, He answers us. Little by little over the years, God has broken me down in different ways. But it is in those broken places where epiphany abounds! Realization of our weaknesses is what creates space in our hearts for God to work. Only when I realize how emotionally weak I am can I then ask for strength. If I know not what is missing, I know not what to ask for.
Now, hold up. What do all of these words have to do with contentment?
In my last post, I talked about how contentment comes from letting go of the idea that as humans we possess what it takes to survive this life. I discussed that we have hope not in ourselves, but in a personal Creator who gives us the strength to be content. I hope that you are still celebrating that wonderful news! Or, perhaps you are still grappling with that concept.
Wherever you are at in this journey of finding contentment, I’d like to take us a smidge deeper into the ocean of revelation. If that sentence scares you, I completely understand; oceans scared me quite a bit until very recently, so you’re not alone in your fear! But please trust me, there is nothing more freeing than overcoming your fears, so dive in with me!
My personal theory is that a big part of why we humans stray so far from contentment is that we are failures in life wayyyy more than we are victors. Yes, even the girl who teaches Sunday school every week at church. We hurt, disappoint, forget, use, abuse, and neglect ourselves and each other to different degrees. And because of that I think we tend to get locked up in our guilt. And then (and this is the worst part of all!), instead of letting ourselves get uncomfortable and humbled, we try everything under the sun to alleviate said guilt. Which in all honesty, usually only perpetuates this cycle of failure.
Wow. This is wicked depressing.
Or is it?!
Today, I was listening to one of my favorite pastors, Matt Chandler. Chandler was discussing the difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Knowing about God is no different than knowing that Tom Brady has a model wife, doesn’t need an alarm to wake up, and rarely lifts weights as a part of his workout routine. Knowing God means more than knowing a list of facts about Him.
Psalms 51: 17 declares that “a broken And contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Chandler explicated this verse saying “The thing that God will never despise is the honest prayers of a man or a woman who might not be where they know they should be, but are crying out: I want more! And He never responds with ‘Get to work, then!’ Ever.”
That is a powerful realization. But again – what do these words have to do with contentment?
I think this is an excellent place to make the distinction between happiness and contentment. I think we all know that there is a difference, but what that difference is is where things break down.
So what is the difference?
First of all, happiness is very fragile. Happiness has many factors: time of day, time of year, financial security, relationship status, social status, personality…the list could go on. Basically, happiness is an emotion.
Contentment on the other hand is more of a decision. Now, I am aware that according to Dictionary.com, the definition for contentment does not include making decisions. This is my own personal definition, so feel free to take it or leave it.
But think about it. Being content does not come naturally to us as we discussed in the last post. Contentment is a decisive act to let go of our frustrations and cynicism, and embrace all that God has freely given us, from the creative glory of nature all the way to what He did on the cross.
If we merely know about God, we know the story of redemption: God’s only Son came to earth to take our penalty of sin in the form of a brutal death on a cross. But if we know God, we understand that Christ did not die on a cross for you and I to be happy. Christ died on the cross that we might find true contentment in knowing Him. All of our guilt and failures no longer have a home in our hearts. Christ’s death on the cross has created a sacred place in our hearts for His powerful acts of grace to now dwell. Take that in. Dwell upon it. Let it clean out your heart. Allow it to be the powerful force that flows out of you to others!
Happiness is fragile, and I don’t know about you, but I break things easily. Contentment however, is durable. Contentment walks with you through the sleepless nights, long days, crappy jobs, friends who bail, plants that die, empty coffee mugs, and small bank accounts.
So instead of watching happiness shatter in front of you again and again, try holding onto something else: contentment. Ask the One who created contentment to give you the strength needed to thrive. He listens and He will answer you.
I hope that this post resonates in your heart! Until next time!
Peace to you!