I have been married for almost ten years to my high school sweetheart, a man who loves Christ and seeks to walk with Him daily. He treats me fabulously, praises me for completing mundane tasks like laundry, and gives me sympathy after a tough day with the kids. I have two sons, Christopher and Will, who are healthy, adorable, sweethearts. They are eager to please, often play well together, and say hilarious things all the time. I have the privilege of staying home with them every day. I love teaching them about Jesus and hearing Christopher’s insightful questions about God. I have a gorgeous house that has more space than we need. I have a huge Jacuzzi tub and a fabulous kitchen with cabinets I can’t even fill. My husband has a job that he loves, and his income provides enough money to pay our bills.
On the other hand, I have been married for almost ten years, which means most of the romance vanished a long time ago. I wish my husband would get home from work earlier, help more with the housework and lavish me with romantic gifts. I have squeezed two 9+ pound babies from my body after enduring vomit-filled pregnancies. Now that they are almost 2- and 4-year-olds, the boys are constantly moving, frequently whining, and often hitting, screaming, and grabbing the other’s toys. My house is too big, and I can never get it all clean at one time. I have nothing on my walls because I can’t afford anything nice right now. The list of things I want for the house and can’t afford is extensive. By the time I finish what I need to do in the evenings, I’d like to take a bath in my Jacuzzi tub but that just means having to clean it later, and I can’t reach all the way around it without doing some serious yoga-like moves.
Those two paragraphs, two very different ways of looking at my life, are an adaptation of how Linda Dillow begins the second chapter of Calm My Anxious Heart, “Content with Circumstances.” Dillow’s is a much more interesting account of the years she spent living in Hong Kong. It struck me as I read the first half and then the second–two very different ways of looking at the very same circumstances. I was encouraged to do the same and wrote a more detailed description than I’ve included here. As I feel discontentment creeping in, it is because I’m choosing to focus on the negative description of my circumstances, and I remind myself to switch my thinking to the positive. I highly recommend writing out these descriptions of your own life, or at least jotting down some bullet points to come back to when you’re feeling discontented.
Dillow draws on Philippians 4:6-9 in this chapter on contentment with circumstances. She describes verse 6 as “our part”: to choose to pray with thanksgiving rather than give in to anxiety. The result will be “God’s part” (verse 7): He will guard our hearts and minds with His peace.
Philippians 4:8-9 exhorts us to think about that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. This means focusing on the first paragraph of my life’s description, not the second; mediating on the greatness of God’s love for me rather than the things I think I’m lacking. Dillow writes: “We become what we think. Our thought life–not our circumstances–determines whether we are content” (p. 32). She references Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) and 2 Corinthians 10:5 to prove this point. I love the mental picture in 2 Corinthians about taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. Many of my circumstances are out of my control, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, I can choose to respond with contentment rather than selfish grumbling. I often think that when my circumstances change, I will be more content. But the truth is, when I take control of my thought life and make it obedient to Christ, peace and contentment will follow.
Today, God gave me the opportunity to apply these truths, along with lessons from this week’s passage for BSF. We were studying the feeding of the 4,000 in Matthew 15:32-38. One of the lessons I learned from this passage is that God will supply every one of our needs, even if it requires a miracle–He can and will do it! Conversely, if I don’t have something, it must mean that God knows I don’t need it. This week, the one thing I thought I needed was for both of my kids to make it to preschool/mother’s day out so I could have a day to myself and do several things I need to do without the kids. This afternoon, Will started running a temperature of 102, replacing my dream of drinking Starbucks and test driving minivans with the reality of taking a sick, cranky 2-year-old to the pediatrician. I can’t say I passed this test with flying colors–I complained about it this afternoon to anyone who would listen (breaking the rules of my previous post). But I acknowledged to Noel that God must have decided that I didn’t need that day to myself, even if I thought I did. I will choose to be thankful for the time I will get to spend with Will tomorrow and the privilege of being his mom. I will be thankful that we can afford to go to the pediatrician (and that my friend Lynette can afford an ear monitor that let me know I should take him). And I will continue to pray that both kids will be healthy so they can go to school next week. 🙂
amanda j says
I read this book for my women’s group a couple years ago and got so much out of it! I remember approaching it with this prideful attitude (I’m not an anxious person, why would I need to read this book?), but as you’ve pointed out, it’s really more about contentment than anxiety. And while I might not be worrying, I am discontent and complaining! Thanks for reminding me of the great biblical applications in this book….maybe I need to read it again. 🙂