Greetings from Kathy Collard Miller in the Southern California desert near Palm Springs.
Many years ago as the mother of a strong-willed toddler and a newborn, I didn’t want to be “just” a mother. I wanted to be out ministering to the world. I hated my husband, Larry, who seemed oblivious to my needs. I continually complained about his neglect and the thankless job of raising children. In time, I learned to choose contentment in three primary areas: problems, possessions, and people.
Complaining about our circumstances stems from a discontented heart. This isn’t a new attitude. In Exodus 15 through 17, the Israelites complained about the lack of water and food. Then when God provided both, they complained abut the type of food they received.
On the other hand, Joseph is an example of a contented person. He trusted God even though he was sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, forgotten by those he’d helped, and seemingly ignored by God (Gen. 39).
We can develop the same kind of attitude by focusing on God’s sovereignty, which Charles Swindoll defines as “our all-wise, all-knowing God reigning in realms beyond our comprehension to bring about a plan beyond our ability to alter, hinder, or stop.” (pg 5, Stones of Remembrance, Bible Study Guide, Insight for Living, Anaheim, CA. 1988)
In the midst of my own discontentment, I eventually believed God had a plan for my good. He revealed that I blamed everyone and everything else for my discontented heart. When I realized God wanted to purify me through my “bad” circumstances, I rejoiced in the wonderful opportunities of raising a family. As a result, I became the loving mother I truly wanted to be.
A pair of grave markers in an English cemetery says, “She died for want of things” and “He died trying to give them to her.”
The media tries to convince us contentment comes from our possessions. Yet, Philippians 4:19 promises, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
Many times we think, “I need that,” when actually, we want it. If God doesn’t supply it, then we can praise Him for His goodness and be content with what He’s already provided. After all, if the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, their water bill is higher.
The keys to contentment with people are wrapped up in four principles:
- I can give up trying to control or save someone else.
- No one else is a reflection of me. Their behavior doesn’t have to make me content about myself or my life.
- I refuse to compare.
- I won’t withdraw my love even as I express my disapproval of poor choices.
We certainly aren’t alone in our struggle with people. Even Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement over taking Mark onto the mission field (Acts 15:35-40). God’s love brought healing. Paul wrote later, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).
Let’s summarize the principles for gaining contentment this way:
Problems: Ask yourself, “Who controls my circumstances? God. I can be content in the midst of problems because God can use them for my good and His glory.”
Possessions: Ask yourself, “Who owns them? God. I can be content with what I have because God will meet my true needs.”
People: Ask yourself, “Who can change others? God. I can be content with relationships because it’s not my responsibility to change them, only to represent the Lord to them.”
Following theses guidelines will help us nurture contentment. Then the apparently greener grass on the other side of the fence won’t be so attractive.
Kathy’s newest book is a women’s Bible study book entitled Choices of the Heart: Daughters of the King Bible study series. Published by Elk Lake Publishers, it features 10 lessons for individuals or groups. Each lesson studies two women of the Bible.