CONTENTMENT – A BIBLICAL POSTURE!

We see something on television about a new product that makes us consider whether our older version of the same thing is still a viable alternative for use. Or, we see something that our neighbor has purchased and it appears to be better than what we have so we want to “upgrade”, shall we say!

 

You know the feeling … that discontent with what we have or with what we are doing?

 

We compare ourselves with others and, somehow, we way too often come up lacking.

  • If only I had that job instead of this one…
  • If only my hair would …
  • If only I had received that promotion …
  • If only I had that house, or car, or dress, instead of this one …
  • If only I was as slender as that lady …
  • If only my children were like theirs …
  • If only …

 

Our canine daughters, Cuddles and Snickers, illustrate this discontent quite often when they both vie for the same toy even though the toy box is filled with other playthings, sometimes even a duplicate of that which they are fighting over.

 

Cuddles and Snickers tug of war
This is mine! Get your own!

 

Don’t misunderstand me, there are times when people are mistreated and abused and there is a legitimate reason for the hurt that is felt. We must work to resolve those issues and/or injustices.

 

I am referring to discontent that is also known as covetousness. I can hear the voices now. “I know that the tenth commandment is ‘Thou Shall Not Covet’!  I don’t do that!”

 

Really?

 

That was my first response when I was reading an article entitled “Thou Shall Not Covet” by Jason Helopoulos in the June 2015 Tabletalk magazine from Ligonier Ministries.   His words were convicting in the first order. In speaking of the reason that coveting is so harmful, he states:

Coveting pulls the heart down into the pit of self-seeking and the muck and mire of envy, slander, adultery, pride, dishonor, murder, thievery, and idolatry. It has rightly been said that when we break any of the first nine commandments, we also break the tenth commandment.

 

For us to combat covetousness, first we need to follow Jesus’ commands in Matthew 6:33:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

As a youth, I sang a song  that said something like this:  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”  When our eyes are on the Lord and His gracious gifts to us, the things of earth will begin to dim in our eyes.

 

Second, we need to follow the example of Paul:

I have learned in whatever situation to be content.

Philippians 4:11b.

 

Contentment is not something we can buy, fight for or grab – it is something in which we should rest. God is sovereign and He, therefore, knows exactly what we need and His grace is sufficient for every trial.   Quoting Rev. Helopoulos again:

If God thought it was good for us to have more, he would give us more. Every Christian rightly seeks to maintain this mind-set. And when this is the case, what joy contentment brings to the Christian life.

 

Third, we should be thankful. Thankfulness forms a hedge around us enabling us to focus on God rather than on the transient things that form our world.   It is hard to be thankful when you are coveting that which others have. Likewise, it is hard to be discontented when you are thankful for the blessings provided by our Sovereign God.

 

As a result of polio, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis (twisting of the spine) when I was 6 years old. When I was 9 years of age, I was put into a body cast and then had surgery to try to stop the twisting that would otherwise have taken my life by age 25.  Although I was in the body cast for over a year, I didn’t miss any school because I had a home-bound teacher from the Chicago school system.

Linda on hospital cart revised
This was me in the body cast. It began behind my head and then it encompassed my body all the way down to my hips and then to my left knee.   I could not raise my head, even to read a book or see television.  That is why I wore prism glasses so I could look through them and see what was in the room, rather than just the ceiling.

 

Rather than being thankful for the healing that was going on in my body, I was crying one day when she came into my room .  Rather than giving me a shoulder to cry on, she demanded “What’s wrong with you!” My response was a feeble, “Because I’m in a body cast!” She then taught me a lesson that I have not forgotten over the 55 years since she spoke these words:

“You are crying over a temporary thing. A child down the street has brittle bones and there is no cure … she breaks a bone when she turns in bed and she is constantly in excruciating pain. Now, what is wrong with spending some time in bed … you have a determined end to your procedure, she does not! So I ask you again, ‘Why are you crying?’”

 

Although I could not articulate it then, through the decades since she said those words, I have found them to be true … when you are hurting, when there are problems and difficulties that are overwhelming, just open your eyes and look around and you will find others who have problems far more difficult than your own. This will put your burdens in perspective.

 

While it is tempting to keep your eyes on your own pain and problems, engaging in self-pity is never productive. Step back from the situation. Don’t become discontented. Rather, look to the Lord, rest in God’s unfailing grace and give Him thanks for His loving hand that encompasses you even when you are not aware of it and problems abound. Psalm 139 states that God knows our every move, word and action. And, nowhere in scripture are these verses revoked.

 

When things are difficult, when pain has set in and when your world is in a cataclysmic nose-dive, you can trust that your Lord has you in His hands and that God knows exactly what is going on.   I don’t mean that he will immediately fix whatever the situation is, but you can rest assured that His grace and comfort will be poured out to help you through the trial.

 

Discontentment – while it often is a reality, it is always sin. I must acknowledge that it is a sin and then repent, look to my Lord and give Him thanks for the salvation that He provides to me. Indeed, even the breath that I breathe is a gift from Him.  No matter how difficult our life is on this earth, it is for a short time – eternal life granted by our Lord is for, well, eternity!

 

Now, what about you?

 

Discontented? Confess, repent and allow His comfort to encompass you. Praise His Name and be thankful. Discontentment will vanish, and you will be able to live life to the fullest in His grace and love.

 

Father, forgive me for whining and crying about my circumstances when You have them in your control and your grace and mercy has lifted me above my circumstances.  Forgive me when I sink in the muck and mire of discontentment rather than realizing that You have already lifted me into your Courts through Christ my Lord and Savior.  May I praise your Name today.

DOCTORS, HOSPITALS, PETS AND FEARS

Cuddles and Snickers are at the doctor’s office today.  Normally they are in the family room, balancing on the recliner while looking out the window through the blind slats … not at all sure what they can see, but they are intent.

But today, they are at the vet’s office for their various shots, tests, nail clipping and baths.  While it sounds routine, it is anything but routine for Cuddles.

Apparently, at some time in her past, she was abused in and around her paws.  When she first arrived at our home, we tried clipping her nails and could not get her to hold still.  She violently pulled back — never snapped, but clearly was terrified.

She is not terrified to look out the bedroom window at the birds feeding just a couple of feet away.  So we don’t know what caused her terror at having her claws clipped.

I see you, birdies; I just don't want to get out there, that's all!
I see you, birdies; I just don’t want to get out there, that’s all!

So, we did what anyone would do, we took her to the groomer’s and asked them to clip her nails.  They were successful in “grinding” some of them, but could not get all of them done and none of her claws were significantly shorter than when we left her for the grooming.  And, again, she was clearly terrified.

Cuddles with her long nails
Cuddles with her long nails

Next stop on the journey for reducing nail length was the veterinarian.  Surely, with all the staff, equipment, etc., he will be able to clip her nails and we will be on our way.  Cuddles disappeared into the back of the animal hospital with the smiling vet carrying her, assuring us that it would be a simple task for them.  [You can read into his expression “You poor guys, can’t even get the dog to hold still for a minute!  We’ll take care of it.]

About 8 minutes later, a very harried vet returns carrying Cuddles — nails are no shorter and he is significantly humbled by the strength of our little MinPin.  And, as per previous encounters, she is clearly terrified.

“We were not able to calm her sufficiently to do the job.”   He then said that our only option was to bring her back on another day and have him operate on her … just put her under anesthesia for about 10 minutes and they would clip and cauterize her nails.  She would not be declawed as that is not a good thing for a dog, but the nails would be very short and it would take several months for them to grow.  Of course, the operation costs money, as does the anesthesia, treatment, etc. and it would be an, almost, all day affair for her.  We had this as one option — the other option was to have our limbs shredded when our skin comes in contact with her paws.

Needless to say, we have taken her to get her “nails done” today so that when we bring her home she will no longer shred our legs with Samurai sword claws when she jumps up onto our lap.

We don’t know what terrified her so much when it comes to her feet.  She has been with us almost two years and there certainly has not been anything here to foster that kind of reaction, but it matters not because her fear is visceral and there is no way to prepare her for the normal clipping procedure.

So, is this post about our travails with Cuddles nails?  Yes, but just a bit.

I want Cuddles’ experience to cause us to consider what terrifies us.  I am fairly confident that there is something in each of our lives that has hurt us, burned us, or abused us whether the injury is physical, psychological, mental or emotional.

When I was a very young child, I had polio and it resulted in scoliosis that showed up before I started school. Because the doctors warned that the severity of the curve would claim my life by the time I was 25, my parents opted for experimental treatment that involved spinal fusion surgery and over a year in a body cast.  I turned 10 years of age after surgery and 6 months in bed in a body cast that went from my head to my knee.   The Lord was gracious, the scoliotic twist was not cured but it was halted, and I was able to live a normal life, including having two children.

I tell you this to say that, even though I credit the Lord as the Great Physician and his messengers, my human doctors, for sparing my life, the horrors of the treatment and body cast were imprinted on my heart and mind.  But, I never thought of them until a doctor suggested that one of my children might have scoliosis.  All at once my greatest fear was staring me in the face.  All the memories that I thought were gone came crashing down and I was wailing, sobbing and utterly drained.

My beloved husband kept repeating that decades had passed since my surgery and the traumas that were associated with it, but I could almost touch my fear it was so real.  I had to come to the point where I could say, truthfully, that my children were the Lord’s and that, if He wanted them to go through this, I had faith in Him that He loved my children even more than I did and that He would handle the situation according to His plan for them, and for me.   As it turned out, there was no scoliosis diagnosis from any orthopedic or neurosurgeon specialist and the children are now adults, both of whom tower over me in height!

Cuddles trusts us — she, in her own doggie way, knows we would not intentionally harm her.  But her trust is not sufficient to overcome the fear that some other event had imprinted on her psyche.

Cuddles and I are different; however, because while my fear knocked me down, it could not overcome my Lord and Savior. He is sovereign and trustworthy, and I am in His hands.

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” 

Psalm 9:10

We are repeatedly admonished in Scripture to trust the Lord.  For example, the Psalmist compares objects of trust in Psalm 20:7 where he affirms:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

And, the writer of Proverbs says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

The God that is described in the Old Testament as being trustworthy is the same God we serve in the New Testament body of Christ.  The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:8 that:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

So, who do you trust when you come face to face with your fears?  Do you trust in human wits, Oprah, psychology, or tabloid suggestions? Or do you trust the Creator of the Universe, the omniscient, omnipresent God who sent His Son to be our Savior?

May we say, along with the prophet Isaiah:

“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” 

Isaiah 26:4.

Father, forgive me for the myriad of times when I let my fears and insecurities rise to the surface so that they distract me from living my life in victory in the power of your Son through your Holy Spirit.  I praise you for being an everlasting rock upon whom we can trust.  I praise you, also, that you have never forsaken me even when I have tried to run and when my fears turned my eyes away from your beloved Son.  Thank you for your overwhelming love and protection, despite my fears.