Fighting for Contentment

IMG_2780I have never heard God’s audible voice while praying. I would remember something like that.

God does, however, speak into my heart through his Holy Spirit.

A couple of weeks ago I came before God frustrated and confused, not even sure what to even say to him. Unsure of where to start, I just started describing my pain. Two sentences into my prayer, the Spirit moved:

There is nothing missing from your life that will fill you up…except me. 

His message was so clear and so direct it was just as effective as if he had shouted into my ear with a megaphone.

I realized that the main source of my frustration was my desire for nearly every part of my life to be different—to do something else, to be somewhere else, to be someone else. Not this, not here, not me. 

Discontentment. 

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “content” I immediately think of stuff and how blessed my life is with physical things. I think about how I need to be happy with what I have. Well, quite honestly, I am happy with what I have. My needs are met, and so are {most} of my wants. 

DSC00100But content actually doesn’t mean happy, it means satisfied.

And while I have also been satisfied with my possessions, I have not been satisfied with the life I am living or the person I am. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Dissatisfaction with the status quo can lead to positive change. But, as I’ve come to understand, it can also lead to a negative attitude.

The problem is that I have been trying to find mental and emotional satisfaction in my situation, in my location, and in myself. True satisfaction is found only in Christ.

So how can I find that satisfaction in my relationship with him?

Well one thing I firmly believe is that contentment and gratitude are linked. How can I possibly be content in him if I am not grateful for who he is, what he has done and what he continues to do?

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

If I want to root out the discontentment in my life, and seek satisfaction, then the first step is cultivating a grateful heart. If it sounds simple, it is. But simple does not equal easy. In fact, some of the most simple things are the most difficult to obtain…and the most worth it.

Bigger Than Me

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CLA Eagles – Varisty Girls

This past winter I had the opportunity to teach, train, disciple and build relationship with 22 jr. and sr. high school girls alongside people that I respect and admire. For four months I found fulfillment in doing the work God had called me to. Every day I found joy in the knowledge that coaching was what I got to do with my life. The challenges were minuscule in comparison to the daily rewards, in fact, the challenges made everything all the brighter.

I dreaded the end of our season.

Sure enough, Saturday, March 22nd came and along with it the Winter Sports Banquet. It was a lovely time. I had the blessing of talking about the Varsity Girls team and it gave me a lot of closure. But that was the problem—the season closed, and I slid into deep post-season depression.

The following Monday I started a new job, and it went well. I had a great boss, helpful and encouraging co-workers, and I was confident that I could do well in the position. To my own confusion, though, when I got home I cried my eyes out. I didn’t understand why, I mean, things had gone well. Then I realized that for four months I had been doing work that I felt meant something. Coaching was much, much bigger than me and I felt honored to be a part of it. To go from that kind of joy and fulfillment in coaching to work retail flattened me. [1]

I let myself cry a little longer, but as C.S. Lewis said, Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” So, reluctantly, I forced the tears down and opened up the Word to 1 Peter 1:5-9:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

The verses were so perfect I started crying again. I realized my own fear of becoming ineffective and purposeless…and God addressed it immediately. That passage told me  that as long as I am constantly pursuing him, it is impossible for me to become ineffective. If my desire is to be close to and serve the Lord, than I will be a fruitful force for his Kingdom, and thus, always a part of something MUCH bigger than me.

…..but *cough* I still miss coaching.

[1] Not that it really matters to this post, but I’m actually not working retail anymore. Yay! 

Envy Check

The other evening I attended a talent show/art fundraiser on behalf of a friends’ ministry and our school’s sports program. I enjoyed the evening very much. The singing was incredible, the music jaw dropping and the artwork inspiring. But as the evening wore on I could feel my self-esteem get lower and lower. I felt like an untalented blob. Apparently my friend felt the same way because in the middle of an amazing cello performance she leaned over and asked, “will we ever be able to admire something without wanting to either do it or have it?” An excellent and thought provoking question, eh? I have been pondering her thought ever since.

en·vy – a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another.

Envy

That is an ugly word. I do not want to have that word associated with my feelings. Ever. Yet, I admit to having it when I watch people doing something that I cannot. That is a major heart problem. This enviousness is fogging my eyes, keeping me from seeing the full beauty of what God is doing through others. This jealousy and misplaced desire is keeping me from being happy for the blessings of others. It does not even matter if I do not have resentment towards others (reading my own heart I don’t think that I do), the fact that I am envious is an invisible barrier between our friendship.

Christianity 101:

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. – Matthew 7:12 (NLT)

When I play well in a game, perform nicely with a speech, write a good piece or have a new opportunity, I don’t want people to be envious of me, I want them to be happy for me! Genuine joy for others comes out of a selfless heart—a heart that is grateful for what God has done and doing.

I did not even know that this was a problem for me! Like much in life, this isn’t a one-time fix either, it’s a long process of becoming more like Christ. So it’s time for a heart check, people. Are you struggling with this too?

Gratitude

Having a “grateful heart” or an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the most significant lessons that I have learned in my 17 years of existence. My parents taught me that everything that I haveexperiences, people, stuff—is a gift from God, not an entitlement. As far as my memory can go complaining[1] has never been tolerated by either of my parents and whining was always a sure fire way to get myself a discipline and a good dose of “Madam Blueberry” (if you don’t know what Madam Blueberry is, you had a sad childhood). Mom and Dad, by drilling me to say “please” and “thank-you,”  showed me that I was to receive any service or gift with thankfulness. It is because of those seeds planted in my mind and heart by Mom and Dad that I know what it means to have a genuinely grateful heart.

Gratitude1Compared to most  in our world my family has had it incredibly good financially—we have always had a home, food, clothes and have been blessed by extra unneeded things and experiences (i.e. sports, speech and debate, electronics, appliances, books, movies et cetera). That said, it has not necessarily been easy for our family, on the contrary there have been times when we’ve struggled greatly. However, those times of insecurity made the lesson of thankfulness straightforward and very real for my siblings and I.

Really, I should not expect to get anything in this world because I don’t deserve it. What I do deserve is an eternity of Hell. Perspective, eh?

Yet, there is not a day that passes where I do not want something (not necessarily a literal possession) that I cannot have. Gratefulness is not a one-time deal. Christianity is not for quitters, and every day is a discouraging battle against my sinful self who is fighting to get me into a self-absorbed state of pride and entitlement.

How to win? Well, gratitude is a direct result of what Christ Jesus has done for me on the cross. It starts with HIM. 

 “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT)

How to let those roots grow deep?tree_with_heart_and_roots_family_reunion_invite-r6187b0751d594f8db4872c7781aa8557_8dnd0_8byvr_512

  • Start my day with prayer, and start that prayer with thanking God for whatever comes to my heart—a friend, a family member, an experience, a lesson, a piece of his creation that touched me.
  • Read the Bible faithfully. Nothing gives me food for thought like Scripture, and how can I think of myself when I’m reading about Jesus or having the Proverbs scream at me to get out of myself!
  • Call on the Holy Spirit to convict me throughout the day.

Much joy!

Emily

 


[1] Okay, complaining is a whole other discussion that I’d love to get into some time…eventually. Quickly though, I don’t think that there is anything with expressing frustration with a situation or a specific desire or anything. It is when complaining becomes ungratefulness that there is a problem. 🙂

Erasing Hell

This is a post I just wrote for Books|Cuppas. 🙂 Comment with thoughts!

FC2I do not like talking about Hell. Really, I don’t…does anyone? The topic of Hell is not a discussions we relish; it is avoided as much as possible. Truly, it is hard to blame us. Hell is not a happy subject;however, in an effort to understand better what I profess to believe as a Christian I read Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle’s Erasing Hell: what God said a out eternity, and the things we’ve made up.

Over the course of reading this book I found myself enlightened, convicted and inspired.

Enlightened: While Chan and Sprinkle did not say anything that was the antithesis of what I already believed about Hell, I gained a solid understanding of what Scripture actually says of Hell. The authors provide specific passages and excellent analysis on the meaning of the verses. Erasing Hell’s birth was partly inspired by “Christian” leaders who are teaching that Hell does not exist. So, within this book’s pages are clear responses to these teachings–using the firm foundation of The Word. As a result of this specific information, I am better equipped to explain to others my beliefs, as well as defend attacks on my faith.

Convicted/Inspired: As the authors write, “We cannot afford to to be wrong on this issue.” What I believe about Hell, as a Christian, is serious–I believe that people who do not become reconciled to God though faith in Jesus Christ are destined to an eternity in Hell. My life should reflect that in EVERY WAY. I do not like to think about it, but people in this world have one of two destinations, and my purpose in life is to bring the message of HOPE in Jesus Christ to those who are headed in the wrong direction.

Hear me. You may not like the idea of Hell, but you need to be pretty darn sure of what you believe about it. This book is 200 pages and an easy (although challenging in thought) read–I read it 3 days between intense school, basketball and other activities. Please, get a hold of this book.