What I Learned This Week: Finding Contentment Where I Am

I have been struggling with resentment and jealousy because other people have what I want.  There.  I said it.  I wish I could say it feels good to get it off my chest, but it doesn’t.  However, I’m hoping it will help some of you who are feeling it, too.

Lisa Bevere told a story about how she wanted a particular vehicle and asked God for it.  God didn’t give it to her.  However, her neighbor got one instead.  She was not a happy camper, to say the least.  Looking at that vehicle in their driveway made her resentful and jealous.  She was serving the Lord, working hard for the Kingdom.  Why had the neighbor gotten what she wanted?

Then the Lord told her that she had an inaccurate picture of how He worked and all that He had to offer.  He showed her that she had a picture of a heavenly warehouse with a set amount of items in it, and if someone else got an item she wanted, that meant there was one less for her to get.  But that is not how His gifts work.

Our Father has an unlimited number of gifts in his storehouse.  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  Just because someone else gets something you want doesn’t mean that you are in danger of not getting yours.  He has more than enough of everything for all of us, so we have no need to be afraid of others being blessed.

This goes for activities, ministries, relationships, gifts and callings as well as stuff. You want to teach that Sunday School class, but someone else gets to do it.  You want to lead that choir, but someone else gets that position.  You want a relationship, but another woman gets into one instead. You want to be in full time ministry, but someone else you know gets to do it while you work full time supporting them.  The last one has been a real struggle for me, unfortunately.

Of course, I would love to be in full time ministry, especially counseling women and families.  Instead, I work 42 hours a week or so supporting my household and doing ministry on the side.  My husband, on the other hand, is running our Men’s Recovery House and our church full time – without pay because we don’t want to take any monies until the ministries are self-supporting.  He is doing what I want to do, and I’m not getting to do it.  Honestly, it eats at me at times.

I feel so incredibly petty and ungrateful.  I am so thankful for the ministries which He has entrusted to us, the people to whom we get to minister, for the opportunities to walk in our callings.  So why do I experience discontent, and sometimes, outright jealousy and resentment?

Because I am in a flesh-suit that acts like a toddler when it doesn’t get what it wants.   Despite my spirit’s desire to please God, my lifelong bent toward selfishness in my soul causes me to get upset when I can’t have what I want.   How quickly and easily I turn from remembering all that I have to focusing on the few things I do not have!

But this has been the enemy’s tactic since the beginning of man’s existence.  “Did God really say you can’t eat of this tree?  Surely you won’t die…”  Adam and Eve could have stayed in the garden in unbroken fellowship enjoying eternal provision forever.  It wasn’t until Satan got their eyes off of all they had and focused it onto the one thing they couldn’t have that they became dissatisfied with what God had given them.

God’s instructions to us when we can’t have what we want are pretty clear and specific:

Phil 4: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

  1. First, we are to rejoice, thankful for being in relationship with the God of the universe and for being the recipients of His continual care and provision.
  2. We are to ask for whatever we want, but it must always be tempered with the remembrance of all He has already provided and an attitude of gratitude for it.
  3. We are to remember that He is a good God, even if we don’t get what we want when and how we want it. We need to trust His knowledge and His timing of what is best for us AND for others in His Kingdom.
  4. Most importantly, we LEARN to remain content by God’s grace – His supernatural empowerment in our lives to obey Him.   If we will remain in Him, He will remain in us, and we will have His peace and His contentment.  Notice that when Paul says God gives Him the necessary strength, it is specifically strength to be content in every situation.

Like a car whose wheels need alignment, our steering wheel repeatedly starts pulling to the right or left, away from dead center.   We continually pursue things that we think will bring us joy and contentment OTHER than simply resting in God’s goodness and provision.  Whether it is money, or stuff, or activities, or relationships, we can fall into depression or anxiety because of our focus on it.   It causes us to wander away from our trust in God and pierce ourselves with grief.

1 Timothy 6: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

God never ever intended for us to find our enjoyment and happiness in other people or things or activities.  He wants us to find our contentment only in Him, and if we do that, nothing in this world can ever take that contentment away.   If our goal is to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness and trust God to provide whatever we need in His timing and His fashion, we won’t yearn for things we can’t have and make ourselves miserable.

I challenge you, along with myself, to make a gratitude list today of the things you already have, and to speak aloud how thankful you are for them.   I challenge you to consciously change your goals from pursuing other things and people to pursuing God and contentment in Him alone.   When you find yourself focusing on what you don’t have, purposefully take those thoughts captive and rejoice for what God has done, is now doing, and will do for you in His timing and wisdom.  Make that commitment to be grateful and trusting today.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny