Something unexpected happened this year. Something that hurt every member of my family in some way. Something that changed the course of all our plans, and made each of us face things we never wanted or imagined. Something that brought us closer together in some ways, and made us each reflect on our own hearts and lives in different ways.
I turned a mile-stone birthday this year. Thirty. I’ve only said it aloud once, and it felt really weird. I know, I know. I’m not that old, you say. But I’m not where I thought I would be, where I wanted to be, at this age. I thought there would be a house (not two condos that are too small for us, both straining us financially), I thought there would be kids. I thought there would be the beginnings of running my own business. I thought there would be more peace, less struggle. I thought there would be more joy.
I know I should be happy with what I have. We have food on our table, a roof over our heads, steady jobs, and friends and family all around us. But what’s wrong with the things I want? Nothing. They’re simple things. Things many people get to enjoy every day. The problem comes in the wanting. Too much, too badly. The frustration when the object of my desire always seem to stay just outside of reach. And even worse is when the envy creeps in. Sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by people that are getting to live the dream life I’m not sure I’ll ever reach. Why does it work out for them and not for me? Maybe their lives aren’t as rosy as they seem from my view. Maybe I’m better off without the mess of little kids around, without having a lawn to mow, without time to spend at home doing things I actually enjoy.
The Bible tells us that there is a time and a season for everything – that God ordains seasons that cause us to struggle, to hurt, and to be disappointed. They shape and mold our character. They equip us for things to come. They draw us nearer to Him. They show us our own weakness and God’s strength.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down; and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for ware, and a time for peace.
Will there be a season of motherhood for me? Maybe. But maybe not. Will I ever get my little business off the ground? Perhaps. But perhaps not. How do you attain contentment with the season of life God has placed you in? It will get better, some people say. But will it? What if it doesn’t? Can I have peace here in my valley, knowing God has a plan? Even if his plan isn’t all about making me happy?
What is contentment? What does it mean to be content? Webster’s 1828 definition goes like this:
1. Content; a resting or satisfaction of mind without disquiet; acquiescence.
1. Rest or quietness of the mind in the present condition; satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaint, opposition, or further desire, and often implying a moderate degree of happiness.
2. Acquiescence; satisfaction without examination.
Satisfaction without disquiet.
Quietness of the mind in the present condition… restraining further desire.
Satisfaction without examination.
My prayer today is to find contentment where I am right now, without looking ahead, or glancing behind. To be whole, and know the God who is here, there, and everywhere. With Him, there is no time of confusion, or worry. There is time for seeking, and for casting away, and even for weeping, but no time for doubt, or shame, or hopelessness. Help me to be still and let the knowledge of His presence quiet my soul.
What does that mean in a practical sense? Letting go of some things, like my many plans. Being flexible and open to opportunities as they arise, and not trying to force them into being. Being happy with the success of people around me, even when it’s really, really hard to be happy for them without feeling sorry for myself.