Thursday, January 15, 2009

There's Gain in the Pain/A Study on Contentment

God’s been doing a work in my life. He’s in the process of re-ordering my priorities. I’ve had to give up, let go, press on, fight through, and beg to survive it all emotionally. But the obedience has been there.

Or has it?

When my son was eight years old, he obeyed so beautifully. The reason I say “beautifully” is because he not only complied the first time we asked him to do something, but he did so cheerfully, willingly and calmly. As his freedoms have increased and the innocence of the younger years has decreased, that’s changed a tad (much to be expected with a teenager). He still obeys, but often he’s irritated about it. Resistant. Reluctant.

It’s the pattern I’ve noticed in my spiritual life. I’ve been on the track to Godliness, growing up in Him for awhile now. Not a day goes by that I don’t spend time in His Word, talking to Him, preaching of Him or serving with Him. He is my constant help. And I obey, but often I’m irritated about it. Like a spiritual teenager, I'm Resistant. Reluctant.

I hold back from complete surrender.

After a few weeks of asking, He finally showed me why. My agitated resistance is caused by an unwillingness to suffer—to experience discomfort. I looked up the word “suffer,” because I thought, Lord, I’ve got it so good. What do I know of suffering? Here’s how the definition read in Merriam Webster online:

transitive verb
1 a: to submit to or be forced to endure b: to feel keenly : labor under
2: undergo , experience
3: to put up with especially as inevitable or unavoidable
4: to allow especially by reason of indifference
intransitive verb
1: to endure death, pain, or distress
2: to sustain loss or damage
3: to be subject to disability or handicap

Wowzer. To experience true contentment in Christ, I need to be willing to suffer—to put up with, to undergo, to sustain loss or submit. I need to endure the pain of dying to my own wishes.

“Then He (Jesus) said to the crowd,
‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways,
take up your cross daily and follow me.
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.
But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
(Luke 9:23-24, NLT)

Does any of this resonate with you? What does “you must turn from your selfish ways” mean to you? Is there anything you’re clinging to other than Him as your source for life?

The cross was all about true, deep, perfect love...but it was also heavy and painful. Non-resistant. Willing.

So are we really walking in willing obedience?

His Word tells us that Godliness is worth striving for, but we gain so much more when it is accompanied with contentment. Godliness is a beautiful thing when it’s lived out of the overflow of the believer’s heart. But add contentment to the equation, and you’ve gained a whole bunch that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Stuff like peace and joy and true satisfaction. All of this comes from a life that is willing to surrender, my friends, even if pain is involved. Ouch—it hurt just saying that.

This doesn’t mean we don’t have legitimate concerns about something or that we aren’t angered with the unrighteousness of the world we live in. 
But it reminds us that we have no bone to pick with the one true God of the universe.
Here’s what the Lord showed me after doing a short (and incomplete) study on the subject:

Discontentment comes from:
• a bored heart (Ecclesiastes 1:7-9)
• a restless heart (Psalm 131:2)
• a contentious heart (Proverbs 15:18, 22:10; Titus 3:9)
• a comparing heart (2 Corinthians 10:12)
• a self-important heart (Matthew 23:11; Colossians 3:3-4, 12; 1 Peter 5:6)
• an unwilling heart (Isaiah 26:7)
• an ungrateful heart (Philippians 4:11-12)
• an unsatisfied heart (Ecclesiastes 4:6; 1 Timothy 6:8; Luke 3:14)
• an ungodly heart (1 Timothy 6:6, Proverbs 19:23)
• an untrusting heart (Hebrews 13:5, John 14:7-9)

I’m sure there are many more, but this is just where the Holy Spirit took me as I searched the Word. Do any of these describe your heart right now? There is no doubt in my mind that contentment is one of the vulnerable areas the enemy is quick to attack. It is a root of many evils in our world today. It’s what has our nation crying out for “change,” the masses in panic over the stock market, our kids asking for more and their parents searching for significance, success and the fountain of youth.

I’m not content to live with discontentment anymore. You with me? Even if pain is involved in the process, I want to gain the Spirit-filled life the Lord has offered me as I willingly surrender my resistance to Him.

Lord Jesus, You are the perfect shape for the holes in our hearts. You are so willing to be our all as we turn to You to meet our needs. May we call on You, depend on You, have joy in You this day, and every day, as we put our trust in You for contentment. In Jesus' name, Amen.

In the Key of HE,

17 friends shared a comment:

Janet said...

You've given me something to ponder. Thank you, Laura Lee!

-bill said...

Wowzer is what I say about this post. It is so true. This makes me think of the book by E. Stanley Jones, "Victory through Surrender".

Still learning and growing,

Betsy Markman said...

This is excellent, inspired stuff! WOW!

lori said...

funny how we see OURSELVES in our teenagers....;)
I'm seconding Bill with DOUBLE WOWZER! You know it's true, we have to continually move and continually obey a little more, resist a little less...could have written it myself!

peace girlfriend!

Sita said...

Hebrews 2:10
For it was an act worthy [of God] and fitting [to the divine nature] that He, for Whose sake and by Whom all things have their existence, in bringing many sons into glory, should make the Pioneer of their salvation perfect [should bring to maturity the human experience necessary to be perfectly equipped for His office as High Priest] through suffering.

Is it any wonder that the people I am most attracted to (incl. blogs) are those who have walked their roads to Golgotha and submitted to their allotted suffering? Why, they look more and more like ethereal beauty that could only come from His glory.
great post, LauraLee...

Laurie Ann said...

LauraLee, what a powerful, convicting post! I didn't realize to what area I had some discontentment in my life. I want to truly be content in all things and you have given me some poignant food for thought here. Thank you so much!

Daniel's Mom said...

Ooh this was right at my door step. Thank you! A lot of the time I am resistant b/c I don't want to die to my own selfish desires. Thank you!

Debbie said...

Laura Lee, I loved what you said in your closing prayer. That the Lord is the perfect shape for the holes we have in our hearts. Wow how wonderfully written. It truly reached me... God bless ya,

Catrina Bradley said...

You expressed so eloquently the feelings I've been having lately. Thank you, LauraLee

Denise said...

Amen my dear friend, I am with you.

Joanne Sher said...

Oh wow. I'm getting there, but nowhere NEAR "there." Excellent things to ponder. Contentment can make SUCH a difference (and the past two days especially, they have NOT been my specialty!). Thank you.

Susanz Place said...

So glad I found your Blog.
Well put post - it summed up my entire last year learing curve.
I'll be comig back to visit - something tells me there are some good post in the archives.

keep chasing righteousness - susan

Peter Stone said...

Spot of Laura, summed up so perfectly by "I’m not content to live with discontentment anymore." Amen to that. I too want to "die to my own wishes." Give me a heart for God, with Christ first in every part of my life. I want more of Him - this is my prayer today too.
God bless

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Well let's see...

a restless heart (check)
a comparing heart (check)
an unsatisfied heart (check)

And those are the ones that jumped out first! I will say that contentment has been a growing lesson in my heart. Without some of God's "refusals" or "not yets" over the past few years, I dare say I wouldn't know as much peace as I do know currently.

God has given me a desert to learn the truth of his marvelous companionship. In the end, he is my true contentment.

Thank you for penning another thought-provoking post. Email me anytime with anything special you'd like me to pray about.


Patty Wysong said...

Wow. I can't wait to dig into those verses! Thank you, sweetie, for this one. I needed it!!

Denise said...

Come by my blog dear, I have an award for you.

Kelly4Jesus said...

can you say conviction? I am with you and GOD amen!