While sidelined from tennis, I started walking simply to get convenient exercise. But over time and as my walks have gotten longer, I’ve noticed that walking has become a treasured pastime. Not only has my knee benefitted, but I’ve cherished the time to pray and listen and think.
I have been completely immersed in my latest book, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles with its exceptional writing and fascinating characters. Tell me I’m not the only one who relishes an escape to another time and place. It’s even more gratifying when from my opinionated perch, I can solve the problems of my new fictional friends. Caution…DO NOT try this with the real people you love.
Provoked to Think
When I finished the book, I was frustrated. Not certain if I didn’t like the ending, or I was just bothered by their eventual lives, it certainly provoked me to think. Even though each character was in obvious pursuit of happiness, it was their unrelenting discontentment that drove them. It was as if each one was chasing contentment. Sadly, I surmised, the author was merely portraying human nature.
Aren’t we all to some degree, chasing contentment?
Not So Fast
When I tried to move on from my fictional friends, it was as if the Lord said, not so fast. Turning the mirror towards myself I wondered…why is it so much easier and more obvious to notice a shortcoming in someone else while overlooking it in myself?
Matthew 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
Being content is “the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things the way they are.”
If that’s the case…
For many of us and for much of the time, we’re discontent. Of course we want more, better, different. Is that wrong? Doesn’t the Lord care about our desires? On the surface it seems as if contentment and desire are at war with each other.
And what about this promise?
Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
The way I understand it… we can’t simply claim this promise without consideration for what the first part means.
To Delight in the Lord
…is to grow in our relationship with Him. When we spend time with Him, through worship, scripture and prayer, we get to know His character and we’re able to see His goodness and recognize His provision in our life. Our relationship matures from merely head knowledge to a personal experience. Gradually and organically, we begin to take delight in Him. When our desires reflect His desires, our deepest longings are satisfied.
We experience the sweet spot when our wants collide with what God wants for us.
Contentment can never be chased down and is never found apart from Christ. Instead, contentment looks a whole lot like the peace that makes no sense to the world, the peace that passes all understanding.
We can be sure contentment isn’t contingent on right circumstances. After all, Paul learned the secret of being content while in prison. Philippians 4: 11-13. To summarize, Paul’s lack taught him Christ was enough and his abundance taught him that things of this earth will never satisfy.
…our discontentment is rooted in a good thing? I’ve come to realize a troubling irony. Because I so want Ian to be content, my own discontentment stems from the futility of trying to help him find it. Lord forgive me.
When we take the bait and believe that our contentment is only possible when X happens, we’re in danger. X becomes our idol. It steels our resources, energy, and affections as if we’ve been planted in thorny soil. We trust X for our satisfaction instead of God and we won’t mature.
Luke 8:14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
What is X for you? Is it some healing, your prodigal to return, your marriage or desire for one? Perhaps it’s retirement, or your longing for a baby, or reconciliation with someone you love. Maybe it’s your need for clarity, or an injustice you just can’t forgive.
Here’s the thing… Contentment will never be found in the next season if you can’t cultivate it in the present one.
How do we live in the tension of wanting more, while content with things the way they are?
I don’t have it figured out, but this passage helps me to visualize the sweet spot.
Psalm 16:5,6 5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Debbie’s Amplified Paraphrase
Lord, you are my home. When I wander and create distance between us, Your grace always draws me back so I can sense Your Presence and feel secure. While living on this earth, everything about my sometimes hard and limited life including my relationships, my circumstances, where I live and what I’ve been called to do is marked by Your sovereign goodness and kindness. And yet I live with certain hope and expectancy that the best is yet to come.
The Sweet Spot
Even though words are inadequate, anyone who loves tennis, or the perfect ski run or holding a newborn, knows what the sweet spot feels like. In my view, that’s what the Lord wants you to experience every day. That exquisite sensation that leaves you wanting more. Ask the Lord to help you experience that in Him. It’s a taste of heaven on earth.
For His Glory,