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Posts tagged ‘contentment’

Will I Be Single Forever?

SOURCE:  Stephen Witmer/Desiring God

I was single all through my twenties, and I enjoyed it a lot of the time. When I wanted a particular food for dinner, I ate it. When I wanted to take a week to hike a one-hundred-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it. When I felt called to pursue graduate work in another country, I went. And there were other, less selfish benefits, including more time and energy for building deep friendships and fruitful ministry.

But, all in all, I found singleness pretty tough. There were seasons of terrible loneliness when I wondered if God would ever give me a lifelong companion. At times I was like a severed powerline, the voltage of unfulfilled longing causing me to thrash about in ways that hurt others. I was sometimes jealous of married friends. I did not always navigate singleness with grace, poise, deep faith, and steadfast joy. Instead, I blundered between enjoyment and regret, happiness and longing, purity and sin.

I wish someone had helped me understand, and then live, my singleness in the light of eternity. I think it would have helped me to enjoy a godlier, more productive, more contented life during those years.

A Stable Ground for Soaring Hope

Eternity changes everything, including our singleness. By “eternity” I mean the future new creation God describes in the Bible. This is a future beyond our wildest imaginings and most fervent hopes. It’s this present world renewed, restored, and remade into a perfect place with no more sin, suffering, brokenness, tears, pain, or death.

The new creation will be far better even than the original Eden, because 1) Jesus will be physically present there (Revelation 22:1) and 2) it will last forever, with its inhabitants never falling into sin — unlike Adam and Eve. In other words, the world’s perfect future will be better than its perfect past. Eden was lovely fragility. The new creation will be gorgeous stability. Eden was like an exquisite china bowl — beautiful but breakable. The new creation will be like the Alps — breathtaking and immovable.

We’re imperfect people living in an imperfect world, but this perfect future becomes our future when we’re united to a perfect Savior through faith. We can then be completely assured that this future is ours. In the Bible, that firm assurance is called “hope.”

Christian hope is the confidence that an amazingly good future is securely ours, and this hope changes the way we view our present. It strengthens and equips us in every life situation, including singleness. It heightens our restlessness for the new creation, and that restlessness makes us more content.

To Grow More Content, Get More Restless

One of the feelings I often experienced as a single person was lack of contentment. Even some of my most enjoyable adventures and sweetest experiences were shot through with a longing to share them with someone else.

A robust longing for eternity helps us with our discontentment by increasing our restlessness. That sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. The apostle Paul was a tremendously restless person, one who said he strained forward and yearned for God’s final future (Philippians 3:13–14). And yet he also said that he had learned the secret of contentment in any circumstance (Philippians 4:12). The two are intimately related after all.

The reason we grow discontent in our singleness (or our job, or marriage, or car, or children, or anything else) is because that person or thing (whatever it is) looks so big and eternity looks so small. If you hold a coin close enough to your face, it will obscure an entire city skyline.

When our present circumstances look bigger than eternity, we have lost perspective. When we lose perspective, we tend to load too much of our contentment onto something never designed to bear the weight. We look to a spouse, a friend, a vacation, or an accomplishment to give us the happiness they never can.

Your Marital Status in Heaven

The problem with this way of living is that it leads to perpetual discontentment. If God gives us a better job but we’re still seeing our job as bigger, more important, and more meaningful than the new creation, we’ll either sacrifice everything to excel at it, or be destroyed if we lose it.

If we’re single and all we can see is our longing for a spouse rather than eternity with Christ, we’ll load down a God-sent spouse with the crushing weight of needy expectation, or become a resentful or cynical or broken-hearted single. A discontented single person will become a discontented spouse and then a discontented parent . . . until eternity breaks in and moves to the center.

God is more concerned with a change in our perspective than a change in our marital status. If eternity is at the center, and a husband or wife or child fails us — or if we don’t have the husband, wife, or children we’re longing for — it will be painful but we’ll be okay, because we know a perfect eternity is still ours. There’s ballast in our boat, and it will hold us steady through the disappointments, missed opportunities, and tragedies of this life.

The more restless we are for the new creation — the more our thoughts and emotions are captivated by it — the less we’ll be shaken by disappointment in this life and the more we’ll see every present blessing not as a final destination but as a signpost pointing toward eternity. The more restless we become, the more contented we are.

Perhaps if you’re a single person, your identity as a “single” has moved to the center of how you think about yourself. But it appears from Jesus’s teaching that in eternity we’ll all be single. There won’t be marriage in the new creation. What will define us forever will not be our marital status, but our enjoyment of the perfect presence of Christ.

That means a single person who loves Jesus is much more like a married person who loves Jesus than like a single person who doesn’t know him. We’ll know Jesus forever and be loved by him for eternity. This is way more central to our identity than our marital status. Don’t think of yourself as unwanted by any prospective spouses. Know yourself as loved forever by Jesus.

It’s likely that for many (not all) singles, there will be moments and seasons of loneliness and longing — times when it feels awkward to be the only single person at the table or the party. That was certainly my experience. But knowing our God and his final future for us plus knowing ourselves in light of that future can produce a profound contentment in our present.

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Singleness is NOT Second Class

SOURCE:  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

According to the 2010 census, more than 96 million people in the United States are single. That’s 43% of adults. 59 million have never married, 23 million are divorced, and another 14 million are widowed.

Many singles feel that singleness equals rejection.

If they are over 25 and not in a serious relationship, society often looks on them as rejects, even if they don’t feel that way themselves. “I am single because nobody wants me,” or “Even that person has someone, why don’t I?” or “What do they see in her that they don’t see in me?” or “It’s so unfair, why am I like this?” These are examples of destructive tapes that can play over and over in a single person’s head.

If you are single, sometimes the natural tendency is to choose making an excuse: “I don’t care because I don’t need anyone anyway,” or to blame someone else: “He isn’t smart enough to know what he is missing.” These choices view singleness as a problem and attempt to blame something or someone for it.

A more realistic, positive, and productive approach is to accept your singleness and make choices that will point you toward the goals God has for your life right now. With this attitude, you will be able to move forward with your life by embracing God and your present circumstance of singleness.

In God’s eyes, being single does not equate with being a reject or coming in last place.

Actually, He might even see it as having more time and mind space available to pursue Him. It certainly worked for Jesus and Paul. Some people find great fulfillment in being married. But others can find the same fulfillment and sense of purpose by being single.

To be an enriching experience, your singleness must be managed based on God’s will for moral, healthy relational conduct, especially your relationship with yourself. When we are in a pattern of rejecting others or being rejected by others, it is hard not to reject ourselves. Satan steers that pattern towards rejecting even God.

Today, if you know some singles, examine how you view them. Are you judging them, even subtly? Why are you judging? Are you perfect? How about helping them manage some of the stressors and temptations of single life? Forward this information to them.

Now, if you are single, focus on the fact of how very special you are to God. You are His workmanship, and His workmanship is marvelous! God has a plan for your life, and it is best to focus on seeking His will and becoming all that He has designed you to be. Growing in Him will allow you to become more Christ-like in all areas of life, whether you are meant to be single or married. Whether you handle your marital status in a way that glorifies God or you are always yearning for the greener grass on the other side of the fence is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, thank You for where I am. Help me always remember that success in my life’s journey does not depend on whether I am married or single. My success in life can be measured only by how well I understand and steward Your plan and purpose for me. I know I have made many mistakes in past relationships and dishonored You and others when I was single. Help me focus on You and accomplish Your purpose for my journey, whether You intend singleness or marriage. Help me develop the love and skills to have successful relationships with a spouse, with family, or with friends. I pray this in the name of Your Son, the groom to the church, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:13-17

But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. 1 Corinthians 7:32-34a

Marriage: We Need It, Want It, Gotta Have It

SOURCE: Adapted from an article by Dennis/Barbara Rainey

American Dreamers

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 
1 Timothy 6:6

Whether you know it or not, your marriage is susceptible to the American Dream Syndrome–the notion that you can have it all, that you deserve it all. The more stuff you have, the better off you are. Desire to acquire. The slogans, like the wish lists, are practically endless.

Yet contrary to the seductive tune of the American Dream, enough is never enough. Getting more only fuels the urge to get more. So how do you learn to live within that truth without constantly feeling like your lives don’t measure up?

You embrace contentment.

Contentment arises from a spirit of gratefulness. It’s the courageous choice to thank God for what you have and for what you don’t have. Even when you don’t know where this week’s grocery money is coming from. Even when the washer goes on the blink. Even when the kids need braces. Even when your next-door neighbor drives home in a new car or is gone on a fabulous vacation to an exotic location.

The apostle Paul, who wrote the words that appear at the top of this page, knew how it felt to be beaten, shipwrecked and imprisoned. He knew the hardship of being pummeled with rocks and left for dead. But he also knew that God could be trusted. He knew his situation was being monitored by the all-wise awareness of his loving heavenly Father.

Occasionally, we all need to be reminded: Material things will never satisfy the hunger in our hearts. A couple who fails to see this could spend a lifetime chasing the American Dream, only to find it to be a desert mirage, forever just out of reach.

Bring your needs and shortages before the Lord right now. Leave them there, thank Him for where He has you, and walk on embracing contentment.

Hanging Out With God Right Now

Source:  Jan Johnson

This Present Moment

Today – even this moment – may be the day “the Lord has made” (Ps 118:24), but a lot of us are living elsewhere. 

Jesus, who knew the psalms well, may have been thinking of that phrase when he said:  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now.”  He seemed to know that we are tempted not to live in this present moment but in the future because he concluded with, “Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matt 6:34,The Message).

Instead of living in this present moment, we inhabit:

  • The Future – tasks I need to do, whom I need to talk to, that difficult appointment tomorrow, expectations about events and people and wondering if these expectations will be met.
  • The Past – what was said to me that was hurtful or compliments that made me feel really good (sometimes too self-focused), words or actions or even purchases or decisions I could regret,  who or what disappointed me.
  • Fantasy – what I would like to say to someone but never will, what I’d like to see happen but there’s no concrete evidence that it will ever happen.

Living in these other moments do not help me abide in Christ. To find contentment in the present moment is to hang out with God right now, relish and adore the companion of my soul and not sweat the rest.  It’s to turn each of those future/past/fantasy thoughts into a prayer for someone. 

Living in the present moment is such a practical, down-to-earth, every day way to practice the presence of God. In Abide in Christ, Andrew Murray says that “the little word now is one of the deepest secrets of the life of faith…” Someone responded to Andrew by saying, “Whatever the surrounding circumstances might be, all I have to do is hold still, and rest and realize ‘Jesus saves me now,’ and for that moment I have what I need.” “Saves ” comes from sozo meaning healing, deliverance, wholeness.  You and I are invited into healing and wholeness in this moment.

Even more practically, God’s will for me in the present moment is to:

    • rejoice always
    • pray without ceasing
    • give thanks in all circumstances

(for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thess 5:16-18).

When I do these things in this present moment, the rest of God’s will isn’t quite so fuzzy. 

Maybe this “present moment” secret is why the command, “Behold!”, occurs so often in the Christmas text.  As Mary was told “Behold!” by the angel, she knew to stop, pause, slow down and look!  Look deeply and listen deeply!  Living in this present moment may have kept her from worrying about the future (I will always be shunned for becoming pregnant without being married) or glorying in the past (I must have done some cool things to be chosen for this!)  She got the idea, and answered the angel:  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 2:31, 36, 38, KJV).

So all day long I can ask, What would it look like to love God in this present moment? What would it look like to love the person in front of me in this present moment?  Living this way is so much easier, so much more joyful.

Each moment is a gift of God to be with God.

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Jan Johnson is a writer, speaker and spiritual director in southern California

I want more and I WANT IT NOW!

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

When is Enough, Enough?

Walking through the store recently, I heard a young girl (about nine years old) whining loudly. She was following her mom with big crocodile tears flowing down her face. “Mom, I want it. Why won’t you buy it? Mom, pleeeease!”

As the mom ignored the youngster, her pleas escalated. Now sobbing, her daughter howled, “Mom, I want it. I WANT IT NOW.”

The mother valiantly tried not to lose her temper. Finally she turned to her daughter and said in a very firm voice, “Stop it. You are not getting it. You did not behave.”

My heart sank. Although this mother may have been correct in not rewarding her daughter’s misbehavior with a special treat from the store, she missed a larger opportunity to teach her child an important truth.

We live in a culture of “I want more” and believe “If I had more, I would be happier.” Even as adults we’ve bought into this lie. Who hasn’t said to themselves, “If only I had more ___________, then I’d be happy.”

If only you had more money, more time, a bigger house, a different spouse, a newer car, then you’d feel happier? Right? Not really. That kind of happiness only lasts for as long as it takes to start dreaming of the next thing you want.

This little girl in the shopping mall is growing up in a culture of entitlement where we not only want more, we think we NEED more and we deserve more. Every television commercial reminds us that we deserve more because we’re worth it.

Entitlement thinking enlarges the self as we become more and more self-centered and self-absorbed, but it diminishes the spirit and poisons the soul. Instead of feeling happy and grateful for what we have, we feel gypped and grumble and complain because we are not getting more of what we think we need and deserve. More isn’t better because more never satisfies. More just fuels our desire for more.

So how do we break free from the mindset of more? The apostle Paul tells us that if we want to grow we must retrain our mind to think in new ways. (Romans 12:2). We have to realize that the world’s way of thinking is not only incorrect, it leads to death.

Paul shares with us a secret that he learned that helped him reject the tyranny of more. He learned how to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11).

We too can learn to be content, but it takes some discipline. Here are two practices you can begin and teach your children in order to learn contentment.

1.  Gratitude: The Bible says, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord (Psalm 92:1). Gratitude counters our entitlement mindset and helps us appreciate the things we do have. On the way home from the store, this mom could have invited her daughter to think of five things she is thankful for. As she turned her attention toward her blessings, her daughter’s grumbling attitude may have changed.

Even when it’s hard to see the good in a particular situation, God calls us to give thanks in all things (not necessarily for all things) (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Mom might have been tempted to grumble internally about her daughter’s misbehavior and immaturity, but retraining her own mind would have reminded her instead to give thanks. Although aggravating, that teachable moment was a gift from God to help her and her daughter see things in a new way. They don’t need more in order to be happy.

2.  Turn to Praise and Worship: When our entitlement mindset looms large, consciously turn your heart away from more and turn it toward God in praise. Praise thanks God for who he is and what he has given us. As we faithfully practice praising and thanking God, we learn to trust his character and his plan for our life even when we don’t understand or like it.

The apostle Paul learned these lessons while sitting in a prison cell. Often it is in the hardest places where we are most teachable. Today when you are tempted to grumble and complain or just want more, stop; tell yourself “enough already” and turn your heart and mind toward all that you have and all God has done. See what a difference this small shift makes in your mood.

What Controls Your Attitude?

SOURCE:  Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Do you ever have one of those weeks? You know, where life seems to always be one step ahead of you. You can never catch your breath and feel like you are constantly choking. No break in sight. Just when it seems like life can’t get any worse … it does.

I recently had one of those weeks. My wife and I weren’t connecting and tension was in the air. Discussions about the upcoming holidays were pending. The kids’ attitudes were affected by household chores and difficulties at school and with peers. At work there was one curve-ball after another. Accounts weren’t paid on time, some contractors gave us some bad news, others weren’t producing, friends were really struggling, plans for a mission trip were not going smoothly. Then, with so much work to catch up on, a storm blew in and we lost power for 48 hours.

In the past, these kinds of weeks would have caused so much distress, prompting poor decisions that would have led to even worse circumstances and consequences. This vicious cycle would spiral so quickly and last longer because of the poor way I handled a set of circumstances.

My life took a dramatic turn when I learned that no matter what you do, you will never stop life’s bad turns.  We are all going to be tested, to be sifted, purified, and refined.

Traffic jams will cause you to miss that important appointment. You’ll lose a job or promotion. Someone will be rude or hurtful, or cheat on you. Regardless of the situation, remember, God is the one who allows all things to happen. We don’t know why, but He does, and He has a plan.

You can live happily each day despite life’s ups and downs, but it can only be done through daily dependence on Jesus Christ and trust in God’s sovereignty and plan. The Apostle Paul tells us that he learned the secret of being content in every situation: that he could do everything through Him that gives me strength.

Today, remember it’s not what happens to you that counts. How you choose to react to each situation reflects your attitude, your heart, and is the fruit of your life.

It just comes down to who’s in control of your attitude. When you feel uncomfortable today, stop and assess your reaction to the day’s events. What kind of lenses are you using, your me-centered ones, or your God-centered ones? Your decision, choose well.

 Prayer

Dear Father God, I invite You to be in me and at work with me. Help me grow, Father, so that I may have the same attitude and mind as Jesus Christ. I know peace doesn’t come from the outside, but comes only from You inside me. Help me look inward for peace and not wait for my circumstances to settle down for me to be at peace. I do not want to be ruled by the circumstances around me … I want to be ruled and guided by Your Holy Spirit. I pray in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus – AMEN!

The Truth

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:5

 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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

Why – Why – Why Me?

SOURCE:  David H. Roper/Our Daily Bread

Recently I read Psalm 131, one of my favorite psalms.

In the past, I viewed it as an encouragement to understand that mystery is one of the hallmarks of God’s character. It challenged me to let my mind be at rest, since I am unable to understand all that God is doing in His universe.

But then I saw another side of David’s calm spirit: I am unable to understand all that God is doing in me, and it is impossible to try.

David draws a comparison between a weaned child that no longer frets for what it once demanded, and a soul that has learned the same lesson. It is a call to learn humility, patient endurance, and contentment in all my circumstances—whatever they are—though I do not understand God’s reasons.

Divine logic is beyond the grasp of my mind.

I ask, “Why this affliction? Why this anguish?” The Father answers, “Hush, child. You wouldn’t understand if I explained it to you. Just trust Me!”

So, I turn from contemplating David’s example to ask myself:

Can I, in my circumstances, “hope in the Lord”? (v.3).

Can I wait in faith and patience without fretting and without questioning God’s wisdom?

Can I trust Him while He works in me His good, acceptable, and perfect will?

It may not be for me to see
The meaning and the mystery
Of all that God has planned for me
Till “afterward”! —Anon.

[In a world of mystery, it’s a comfort to know the God who knows all things.]

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