Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sustaining Contentment

Lately, I've struggled with contentment. Or maybe a better way to say it would be that I've *noticed* an ongoing struggle with contentment in my life. While life is not gumdrop perfect in any way, I have so many blessings and joys in life... and yet I struggle to maintain the elusive "attitude of gratitude" (I loathe cheesy rhymes and phrases, but this one is so perfect for what I need to cultivate that I'm going with it.) and be content. Sometimes it's the people, sometimes it's the place, sometimes it's the circumstances... but I am now realizing that I have allowed seeds of discontented bitterness to spring up in my life unabated.

Yesterday, I came across some helpful advice and wise words... all of which seem directed at me:

  1. QUICKLY DEAL WITH THE SIN YOU SEE IN YOUR LIFE - Jay Adams offers sage wisdom about not harboring sin in your heart. Sadly, I have seen the effects of what happens when I as a believer allow sin to creep in and claim and control portions of my life... particularly in my thoughts.
  2. Reading Psalm 51 is always one of the first places I go when I need to confess sin-- ESPECIALLY when I don't feel like it, when I'd rather just maintain the status-quo. "Have mercy"... "wash me thoroughly"... "against You have I sinned"... "purge me"... "blot out"... "create", "renew", "restore", "uphold", "deliver". I love Psalm 51's honesty about sin and its target of renewal and restoration... as the living and active Word of God, when I read it and use it as a prayer to the LORD, it somehow works in me to bring about a right attitude even when I start out with a rebellious, self-focused desire to stay the same.
  3. PRESCRIPTION FOR CONTENTMENT: "*Never allow yourself to complain about anything - not even the weather. *Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else. *Never compare your lot with another’s. *Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise. *Never dwell on tomorrow - remember that [tomorrow] is God’s, not ours." Good advice. And it's now up on my fridge, cause I need to read it again and again. :)
  4. I somehow ran across this old post: A LIFE WITHOUT COMPLAINING (Excellent advice here!)
  5. This Puritan Prayer-- "HEART CORRUPTIONS"

    O God, may Thy Spirit speak in me that I may speak to thee. I have no merit, let the merit of Jesus stand for me. I am undeserving, but I look to Thy tender mercy. I am full of infirmities, wants, sin; Thou art full of grace.

    I confess my sin, my frequent sin, my wilful sin; all my powers of body and soul are defiled: a fountain of pollution is deep within my nature. There are chambers of foul images within my being; I have gone from one odious room to another, walked in a no-man's-land of dangerous imaginations, pried into the secrets of my fallen nature.

    I am utterly ashamed that I am what I am in myself; I have no green shoot in me nor fruit, but thorns and thistles; I am a fading leaf that the wind drives away; I live bare and barren as a winter tree, unprofitable, fit to be hewn down and burnt. Lord, dost Thou have mercy on me?

    Thou hast struck a heavy blow at my pride, at the false god of self, and I lie in pieces before Thee. But Thou hast given me another master and lord, Thy Son, Jesus, and now my heart is turned towards holiness, my life speeds as an arrow from a bow towards complete obedience to Thee. Help me in all my doings to put down sin and to humble pride. Save me from the love of the world and the pride of life, from everything that is natural to fallen man, and let Christ's nature be seen in me day by day. Grant me grace to bear Thy will without repining, and delight to be not only chiselled, squared, or fashioned, but separated from the old rock where I have been embedded so long, and lifted from the quarry to the upper air, where I may be built in Christ for ever.

  6. And then today came this story of a woman content to be confined to life in a metal tube for 60 years. Truly, contentment is worth the having. Just as discontentedness can change blessings to seeming-curses, contentment can change miserable circumstances to delightful ones.
This week, I have to tell you, I really got fed up with refinement. What a poor attitude for a believer, a Christ-follower, to have! I wanted to run from His sanctifying and changing work in me and just "be left alone for a while" (as I told a friend). But that is not the road of Christ. Though it hurts, though it is tiring, though it threatens to make me into something new and the new can be frightening, though it feels as though the road keeps narrowing for me, though the self-grown protective scales must be ripped off to reveal the soft flesh beneath... it's really what I want.

And I say that with resignment. I'll confess- I'm not always an eager trooper for Christ. I want to be. I want to want Him. But I so often fail... it is in these moments that I am thankful that HE is the One that keeps me and it is not my own goodness that will recommend and reconcile me to Him.

How do you cultivate contentment in your life? How do you stave off bitterness and a critical nature? What Scriptures, books, articles, or advice have helped you in your fight for joy and delight in the LORD?

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