Some thoughts on contentment.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content, wrote Paul.

I have not.

I was thinking about this last week because I was feeling really discontent.  I have a job, but I don't have enough hours yet to be making much money.  Also, let's face it: somehow making sandwiches at Panera is a little less glamorous than teaching at a university in China.  It doesn't exactly have the same ring of I'm doing awesome things when I tell people what my job is.

I like people thinking that I'm doing awesome things!  I enjoy feeling that my life is an adventure.  And while  a bus ride to find cheese in China seems like an undertaking worthy of epic theme music, a bus ride in Ohio usually seems like a nuisance.

See what I mean?  I haven't learned to be content very well.

But at some point last week, when all of this was sort of bubbling around in my head, it occurred to me that I was being ridiculous.


  • I don't have to deal with the daily frustration of not being able to express very basic things.
  • It hasn't snowed yet here.
  • There are incredible libraries and you know what? I can read whatever I want to from them.
  • I'm living with a good friend.
  • Since I don't have a ton of hours of work yet, I have time to pursue other interests.  Like reading.  And writing.  And selling some posts to blogmutt.  And (thinking about) applying to grad schools.  And emailing friends.  And chatting with students.
  • There are churches everywhere.
  • I'm 2 hours away from my family, rather than 24+.


The list could go on and on.

So... maybe doing a hard things means learning to be content.

John Calvin was right on when he described the human heart as an idol factory.  It's something I keep learning about... and then seeing in myself... and then not thinking about for a while... and then getting smacked with again.  Here are a few resources that I love...


  • The excellent book The Cry of the Soul: How Our Emotions Reveal Our Deepest Questions about God by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III has some really good content about how our emotions expose our idols.  (Unfortunately... I didn't copy the quotes down.  Maybe a project soon...)
  • Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods deals with some similar themes and is very accessible, solid and practical (as I've found everything of his that I've read/listened to!)
  • Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.  ...This maybe just happens to be my favorite book.  If you haven't read it, don't be put off by the long name.  It's lovely.
  • Jeremiah Burroughs wrote a book called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, which I haven't read yet... but I need to.  Pastor William Kessler did an awesome series using this and speaking about contentment at a camp when I was in high school.  Sadly, his messages aren't on sermonaudio... the good news is that quite a few other ones are!  (Click here for the link, if you're interested.)
  • And there is this line by Jars of Clay, from their song Call My Name which has haunted me for a few years.
Let our idols fail, vanity subsideAnd we will see the beauty in our lives.


It's a hard thing to pray, I think -- to ask God to bring idols down.  But until He does, we'll be missing out on so much... including the beauty in our lives that we're too busy being discontent to see.

Comments

  1. I know exactly what you're talking about, because I felt similarly when I lived in the States. Unemployed, underemployed, I saw others doing "hard, adventurous things" and felt like what I did was less glamorous, important, big. I grew restless instead of having the peace I should have had.
    I'm learning what life is in light of what it isn't. I'm learning what love is in light of what it isn't.

    So enjoy your access to all kinds of cheese, and real mexican food. Go to bookstores and actually understand what the titles are. And by all means use Hulu... because I can't and I'm missing live streaming media... LOL. And maybe talk to someone on that bus to Ohio, because you can and you care. I can't say how many times I've been driven crazy by being adopted by a little old lady on the bus and wished I could understand all that she was telling me. You can now. :D

    Life is adventure. God definitely sees to that.

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