By Laura L. Wood
We’ve all had them. Days when nothing goes right. Days when we oversleep, yell at the kids to get ready, miss the bus, walk in late to work, lose the important document we were working on, burn the dinner, send the kids to bed early and gruffly, and fall into bed feeling like failures.
Well, maybe you haven’t had those days, but I certainly have. And there are times when those days become weeks or months, times when I feel like I have lost my ability to find anything good in my life.
In times like these, falling back on the age-old advice of remembering that someone else is in a worse circumstance doesn’t really help. It just reminds me of more things to worry about and piles guilt for not being thankful for my blessings on top of the rest of my negative thoughts.
In difficult times, what can I do to maintain or regain contentment in God? After all, emotions go up and down. They can’t be relied on because they can change with one conversation, one commercial viewed, one passing comment from a stranger. Friends come and go, giving us good advice one day and bad advice another. Circumstances change. One call from the mechanic can put us months behind in paying off the ever-present credit card bill, plunging us once again into financial worry.
Christians hear from preachers that God is the only constant in times of trouble. But how does that translate into practice? How should I actually go about finding my contentment in him?
Focus on His Word
One way to find contentment in God is to stay in his Word. Negative, immoral, hurtful messages bombard us from every angle; and we must make a conscious effort to counteract those messages with assurance from his Word that he is here with us, that he cares about us.
This is an area of difficulty for me, one that I have not been particularly successful at. As a child, I made a Bible reading chart and read through the Bible. In high school, I led Bible studies. In Bible college, I delved into the Word every day in class. As a young adult, I read the Bible daily, wrote about it in my journal, and prayed and meditated on it throughout the day.
Then I got married and started thinking about my husband and what to make for dinner. Bible reading slowed but didn’t stop altogether. And then I had a baby—a baby who woke me every few hours throughout the night and hung on my body every moment of the day. A baby who woke up every time I picked up the Bible. No kidding. Every single time. What new mom can leave her baby crying in bed while pleasantly meditating on the Word of God?
I remember telling a friend that I had decided to start reading the Bible again by buying a verse of the day calendar. At least I’d read a verse a day! Bible reading suddenly had become something that required quite a bit of commitment and energy. I must make a real effort to renew my mind with godly words that counteract the ungodly messages I am sent by media and society.
Discomfort Can Lead to Growth
Another way to find contentment in God is to remind ourselves that we may be in uncomfortable situations for a reason. God didn’t promise that we would be happy and satisfied every minute of every day. In fact, there are plenty of verses that say we’ll be persecuted and that life will be hard.
We don’t learn much when things are good, but we can learn a lot when things are hard. We can learn that God is about all there is to rely on.
My husband and I struggle with this in the area of finances. We work two jobs each, and we have enough to feed, clothe, and house our family without any problems. However, we ran up debt when we made the decision for me to stay home when our children were little, and now we struggle to pay it off. Every time we start making headway, another emergency bill arises and we are back where we started.
I’ve begun asking myself what God can teach us from this. We must definitely find our security in him. We can’t rely on money in the bank, but he always provides for us. We can learn to be thankful to him for the money to keep our family afloat, even if we do have debt. We’re still figuring this out, but in situations like this we can examine the areas of our lives where we feel the least content and decide whether God may be teaching us something through our circumstances.
We must let events in our lives turn us toward God, not allow ourselves to turn away from him and become bitter and resentful when things don’t go the way we had planned.
Another thing we can do is make sure we have godly people in our lives, people who understand that God works through difficulty and can remind us to turn to him. Not in nagging, judgmental ways, but in ways that positively turn us back to the path of godly contentment when we stray.
Plenty of people are willing to pat us on the back and reassure us with platitudes just to keep everyone happy and seemingly peaceful, but how many of our friends will tell us the real truth, even when it hurts? A friend who can speak the truth in love is a valuable one. Seek someone who will be honest with you and point you toward God, and then listen to what he or she says.
Sometimes just talking through challenges can help me see where God might be leading me and can lead to a sense of contentment. Once I had a potential job offer and called a friend to discuss it with her. I was excited, thinking about the possibilities and whether it was right for my family. I had never considered taking such a job and had no idea where it would lead or whether God was leading us in that direction.
My friend listened and shared my excitement to an extent, but she asked me several well-timed questions that led me to decide that this would not be beneficial for my family. In one short, positive conversation, she helped me define my ideas and see the situation more clearly; yet she did not dash my dreams to the ground by making me feel ridiculous for considering the possibility. My wise friend preserved the relationship while helping me see the truth and discern God’s leading.
Sometimes I feel stressed out when I think about the things I can’t change. I feel angry at people who disrupt my happy life and pull my focus away from God and positive thoughts. Finding contentment in God requires me to train my mind to think about his goodness and love, and remind myself that I am not in control and don’t have to be. I can be happy about that fact!
Laura L. Wood is a freelance writer in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Kids and Comfort
The motivation behind making comfort an idol and nurturing complacency is often family. We have nice homes in nice places, drive nice cars, and eat nice food because we want a stable, safe upbringing for our kids.
But that motivation can be dangerous too. Kids, teens especially, thirst for adventure, excitement, and risk. Our good intentions may be part of the reason why so many kids from good homes end up in rehab, unhealthy relationships, and lives of crime.
It seems unfathomable—and many times it’s not quite this simple—but when kids don’t participate in adventures and risks with their parents, they find it elsewhere. Instead of feeling worry and guilt about your kids, partner with them in an exciting life of faith.
The Bible presents faith as anything but boring. (Look at the lives of the prophets!) But we often show kids a life where faith means sitting still and being quiet.
Here are a few small ways to start living an adventure for yourself and your kids.
1. As a family, learn about and pray for missionaries around the world and the people they work with.
2. Talk to and befriend people who aren’t just like you—even invite them into your home.
3. Embody the fruit of the Spirit even when you may not get what you want or may be ridiculed.
4. Prayerfully make a bold financial commitment to a mission project and work with your family to honor it.