Y’all. I am actively writing a book about finding contentment in God and God alone. It’s saturating my life and consuming most of my working time (no, it’s not a project I’ve shared yet – I’m not to that point yet). But, for the purpose of this post, it’s important that I give a glimpse into it because it’s very much influencing the way I see almost everything in my life (it is what tends to happen when you decide to write a book on any given topic).
So here I am. Diving deep into the what the Bible says about contentment… listening to podcasts, reading, and then reading some more. Praying – and I’m talking on my knees prayers of surrender.
And I’ve realized something throughout the process – which I had an idea of or I wouldn’t have begun the book in the first place. But, what I’ve realized is – I feel like the least content person ever.
I know it’s not true.
I know we all struggle and – while I’m writing a whole book on it because it deserves that much space and that many words – the long and short of it is that we likely struggle with it more than any generation before us.
We are saturated with messages about what we deserve. We are hand-served ads that are designed to create desire and “want” around things we are specifically prone to wanting, making us more likely to buy those things. And, we’re taught that we’re meant to be happy… and that if we aren’t, we should move on to whatever it is that will achieve that end in our lives and in our hearts.
And yet – even if we buy everything those ads show us – trust me, I’ve done it, I know what I’m talking about – we still find our hearts wanting more.
I find myself in a constant state of want, of unrest, and discontent. And man, it. is. unsettling.
It’s not an accident.
It’s not like my heart is the only one in this place. I’m not sure anyone of us can – truly and honestly – look at our lives and think “man. I’m so happy. there’s not a single thing in this world I could even imagine wanting.”
There may be moments like that – the minute we see our child for the first time. A truly satisfying night with friends. A spectacular sunset. All these things are super fulfilling for the time periods they happen to take up.
But then we’re right back to it. We see what everyone else has. We see how easy it looks for others. We find ourselves wanting and most of the time we don’t even know what exactly it is we’re wanting. Guys… it is so flipping hard sometimes.
I’m baring my heart here because I’m in the thick of it. I’m still reeling from the situation that caused anger in my life a whole month ago at this point. We’re still trying to figure out a whole lot of “how do we even begin to proceed” moments as a family. And it is just unsettling. It’s really easy to convince myself in these moments that peace is out of reach because it certainly seems like it is. And if I were to follow all the perfectly-filtered social influencers that seem to have it all together, get to see all the coolest places and live lives that seem free from these moments of striving, I don’t even think I could stand it. I am on that edge where that sort of longing would probably cause me to just fall apart.
When I’m at that point, or you’re at that point, it’s really easy to start to spin out. It’s really easy to look out at the world instead of up at God and to start digging ourselves in deep. It’s easy to become disillusioned and bitter and those voices from strangers we don’t even know tell us over and over again that we deserve to feel that way if we believe we’ve been wronged.
The cycle perpetuates. The unrest grows. We become stuck where we are at best or angry at worst. And instead of leaning on the promise that God gives us of perfect peace that surpasses all understanding, we keep running.
Guys, it’s tiring.
A Possible Counter Option
About 2.5 years ago, I worked through Jennie Allen’s Made for This: 40 Days to Finding Your Purpose. It changed my life.
See – my husband and I were at this same place at that point. Things felt overwhelming and there were decisions in front of us that felt ginormous, and nothing made sense.
The thing in this 40-day process that brought things together for us then – and that we’re jumping into once again – is praying for anything.
Jennie Allen describes it way more eloquently than I ever could, so I’m encouraging you – no matter how you think your life is going write now to check out that book, friend. I’ve even purchased it for a few close friends after some deep conversations that revealed similarities to my own heart. But the basis of it is this: we are really good at wanting and striving.
For instance: if I asked you right now, today, how you would describe your perfect life, or even your perfect upcoming summer, you would have an answer. You might have ten answers. It’s not hard to enunciate what it is we dream of. But if we live lives where we write down those intentions and chase after them, without giving them to God or examining whether those dreams are of him or of this world, then we’re entering some dangerous territory. We might reach those dreams, we might see them come to fruition or, we might fall flat on our faces, feeling like disappointments and failures (we’re super good at that for the most part).
The thing is: sometimes God is the author of our dreams. He has plans for us that we can’t even imagine. Maybe we’ll get to see them on this side of Heaven. But, sometimes we won’t, not until we get to be with him for eternity and see the whole picture. Our God is not just God of our hearts, or of a certain people group, or of a limited place or denomination. He’s the author of the universe, the writer of the story of the world, from its creation from nothing straight on through forever.
Us? We’re tiny tiny tiny particles in it. We are created in love. We are created with purpose. We are MADE for the mission he would have for us.
But, unless we give our hopes, our dreams, and our futures to him, and invite him to write our stories, asking him to make our hearts and our dreams align with his, we’re doing ourselves a great disservice… and we’re doing ourselves one as well. We’re going to continue to live lives of discontent and striving that are the direct opposite of the peace and joy he promises our hearts. We will never find full satisfaction unless we ask for him to fill us with him…. unless we ask for whatever it is he has for us… wherever it is he is leading us… for anything.
It’s Scary Right?
Listen, I’m a control freak that can keep up with the best of them.
My last post was all about un-planning because I tend to judge my success on my ability to maintain a solid schedule and to reach for my goals.
At one point I even bought into a Christian influencer’s idea that you can actually write down your intentions daily – hers happened to be becoming a New York Times Best selling author – and if you just focus on it hard enough and dream big enough and dig your heels in on the hard work front (aka: just keep striving), that you’ll be able to visualize those dreams into reality.
Is that what God would have for us?
The Bible tells us otherwise.
The Bible tells us our own plans are folly, yet God’s plans endure.
If we know this: why do we keep going? Why do we live in a constant state of discontent?
I want to throw out the theory that maybe – just maybe – we’re scared to give up on what it is we use to define our success… and how it is we see ourselves in this world.
Maybe the best thing – and scariest thing in the world – is to pray for God’s anything… whether we have any idea what that might be or not.
Guys – if we give our hearts – our full hearts – and our dreams and our plans to our father in heaven who lovingly created us to live lives of harmony with him, reflecting his light to this world, and created a purpose for us that we may or may not get to see, there’s something in better in store.
We don’t have to be discontent. We don’t have to be fearful. We don’t have to have it all together or have the best-kept schedule. Goodness, we don’t have to have honor roll kids, or a perfect career history filled with upward progress on the corporate ladder. We don’t need the lavish vacations or the gorgeous dream houses in the country.
We need him. We need reliance. We need trust. And we need confidence that his anything is for sure better than anything we could ever dream up on our own.
Can we do it?
Can we ask God to take our whole lives (this requires complete surrender) and do with them what he would? Can we ask him to make us content in whatever that might look like and just throw our hands up in surrender from the most vulnerable place possible?
I think we can. And I think if we’d all do it, if we’d all truly give our dreams to him over and over and over again that he’d do something big. Let’s let him. Let’s do it together.