“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”
– Charles H. Spurgeon –
During my research for the recent posts on God’s will, I asked many of my friends to submit questions. Some of these questions made it into the Q&A, while others seemed to go beyond simply knowing God’s will. One friend brought up this great question:
“I know I’m in God’s will in what I am doing now, but feel drawn/want to do something else. How do I find contentment?”
Ah, contentment. As humans, we all suffer from dissatisfaction at times. As young people, we are at the threshold of so much future stretching out before us. There’s just so much Out There. It’s hard to hold back the desires that want to leap out into the stars.
As a young lady, I know how deeply the struggle for contentment affects us girls. For the young and unmarried among us, we sometimes feel like our lives are frozen in place, just waiting for the right guy to come along for our lives to really start. While singleness is not the only area of discontent that touches us, it is one of the most prominent in our thoughts.
Why is this? Why are we constantly wishing for what isn’t?
More importantly, what is the cure?
Why, why, why?
The idea to take something for ourselves before the time is rather…old. Very, very old. It goes back to the first people ever, in fact, when a snake enthralled Eve with a forbidden bit of pleasure.
” Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. “(Genesis 3:1-6, NKJV)
One little nibble was all it took. The seed of discontent bore a fruit that tasted great…but how bitter it was in the end! That was true for the first people, and it is true for us still. Eve’s desires to satisfy her hunger, her artistic sensibilities, and her intellect were not wrong desires. It was the way she tried to fill herself that was wrong.
When we deal with our hopes and dreams, they don’t have to be thrown away. They just have to be submitted to God. Eve’s weren’t. And, sorry to say, neither are mine a lot of the time.
I think I will always remember one night when I was sixteen. I sank beside my bed, struggling with the conviction that I had to offer up all my life to God, every aspect. I was afraid. Yes, I was afraid that if I said, “Yes, Lord,” that He would pack me off to be a missionary in South Asia or doom me to lifelong spinsterdom. Or probably both. (Don’t laugh. I was very serious. 🙂 ) With a multitude of tears and sniffles, I bowed my head and prayed that God would make me willing to surrender. If I wasn’t quite ready to fork over my “consent,” I was at least receptive to the idea. As one songwriter says, I was “willing to be willing.” And, in the quiet of the night, His peace came.
I’ve had to go back to that place many times since then, surrendering and re-surrendering. Marriage, health, opportunities–all these have come to the table to be sacrificed. I’ve found that the One who accepts my offerings is gracious. Sometimes the sacrifice can be a living one, subdued but released to caper around again like a spring lamb. Sometimes He hands back my dreams; sometimes He keeps them. But whatever He hands me next, I can accept it knowing that it is better than what I might have chosen. He is much wiser than I am, you know.
How can I find contentment here?
My friends, as much as we doubt it, joy is not a place. Joy is a choice. Joy is a gift.
A young woman, martyred for her faith, had this to say about her Savior’s faithfulness:
“And shall I fear that there is anything that men hold dear Thou wouldst deprive me of and nothing give in place? That is not so, for I can see Thy face. I hear Thee now. ‘My child, I died for thee. And if the gift of love and life you took from Me, shall I one gracious thing withhold to all eternity? One beautiful and bright, one pure and precious thing, withhold? It cannot be.'”
– Betty Scott Stam, “My Testimony” –
It cannot be, dear ones, that He will keep back anything good from us! The God who loves us for His own glory will not fail us.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32, NKJV)
Trust in the love of God is the root of contentment. If we hold to our God in trust, we can let Him take us anywhere. It is with Him that we will be happy–and nowhere else.
Pride, on the other hand, is the root of discontent. “I deserve this” is my unspoken theme song–how about you? I hum along to it when I set my sights on something I simply must have to be happy. (Because, obviously, my happiness is vital to the continued functioning of the universe.) I chant the “Deserve it” lyrics when I presume upon a future I cannot control, plotting and planning my course (Prov. 16:9). The “I deserve this” mentality cripples many God-fearing girls who are waiting for a spouse. Christian thinker John Stonestreet calls this assumption “Princess theology,” a Disney-like happily-ever-after that we girls think we deserve for all the suffering we’ve been doing during our single years. But we don’t deserve happiness, if we think about it. We deserve nothing less than eternal hell for our sins. Christ’s atonement means that we can stand clean before God–but it doesn’t mean we now deserve our every whim.
But–if marriage is a gift we covet, we must also realize that singleness is not a curse. It is a gift too. The most powerful, beautiful, comforting thought I’ve ever read in this area was written by missionary and author Elisabeth Elliot:
“Single life may be only a stage of a life’s journey, but even a stage is a gift. God may replace it with another gift, but the receiver accepts His gifts with thanksgiving. This gift for this day. The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived–not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.”
– Elisabeth Elliot, from Let Me Be A Woman, page 31 –
So, my friends, contentment is about today. Not yesterday, with its regrets. Not tomorrow, with its hopes. Today–the beautiful, undeserved, fresh place that God has formed for us right now.
How do you embrace today? Not by never thinking about tomorrow, but by giving up your right to tomorrow and realizing Who has tomorrow well under control.
Contentment is about today. Contentment is about faith. Contentment is about raising that white surrender flag and flapping it as hard and high as you can. Contentment is the path to joy.
In her book Singled Out for Him, Nancy Leigh DeMoss tells the story of young William Borden, who left behind his family’s fortune to serve God, dying before he even reached the mission field. While he moved straight into glory, the impact of his life continues through his motto, found written in the front of his Bible. May it be ours:
“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”
– Jeremiah Burroughs –