Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.
What is contentment? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, content means to limit (oneself) in requirements, desires, or actions. God’s Word shows that it is so much more than that (Philippians 4, Psalm 23, 1Timothy 6:6-8, Hebrews 13:5 and more). Based on His Word, contentment is the confidence of faith in the suffiency of God’s provision for our needs and it is the confidence of God’s grace for every circumstance.
I recently started reading a book titled The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer and have found myself on solid, but unsteady ground. I say solid because of the foundation I have found and built in Christ and unsteady due to the fact that the truth of scripture combined with the wisdom God has given this author are enough to brew up a storm. Care to join me on this journey as I muddle through my own dark closets, clear cobwebs of misunderstanding and seek truths yet to be discovered?
On a side note before I delve into this experience, I would definitely recommend this book. There is one for men as well and you could probably find it at your local Christian book store or on cbd.com. I won’t be lending my copy out as the margins are quickly being filled with my own personal notes, portions of it have been underlined or highlighted, and some pages may be covered in coffee stains and have tattered edges…all due to the inner battle I find myself in. Granted, I do believe in the in power of another’s insight, but a friend of mine once said: If you find a book that you find yourself marking up, don’t lend it out. If it’s that good, the person asking to borrow it should buy it for themselves. So true.
In the first portion of The Resolution, Shirer points to the call that all women should be surprisingly satisfied in who we are in Christ and what He’s provided for us in this season, here and now. It’s a resolution to be satisfied. She goes on to tell a portion of her testimony where she spent the majority of her time not living in the here and now. She was focused on the next thing or event in her life. Ever find yourself there? I know I have.
Sure, I have happy memories from my childhood, some from kindergarten and many from time spent with family, but I also have many that I would rather not think about and those that I just simply passed over because I couldn’t wait for the next moment to arrive. The latter, it would seem, forced me to focus on the future. If I could just get through this year, next year will be stellar. I’m starting over in a new place/again…maybe this time, it will be better! If only I could acquire that, then maybe… anyone can finish that thought. Maybe you find yourself in the same spot I was in when I read those words. I’m just like her! Looking back, I can’t remember most of my time before college. I was in such a rush to move on and leave the past behind me and driven enough to make it happen (or so I thought). I was present during those moments in my life without actually being there. I don’t recall the emotions or specifics of those instances in my life. I was not content.
I’ve since learned that in my discontentment, I chose to hurry through parts of my life in order to escape the parts I disliked and ended up missing all the things I actually did like about that particular season. Shirer points out that in doing so, we devalue “those around” us “and the experiences” we are “involved in not appreciating the importance and significance they bring to” our “life at this very moment, not grasping” our “ responsibility for holding dear and treating well these gifts God has entrusted” to us…”before you know it, you’ve missed out on the joys in the journey, the growth that comes from battling through the difficulties, the sweet and savory experience of creating the memories.” Ouch…
I realized then that I don’t want to live my life in that way. I’ve slowed down some since college. I’m more at ease with who I am, or rather, the me I’m discovering through this amazing relationship I have with my Creator as well as the relationships I’ve built with those close to me. God has blessed me with brothers and sisters in Christ who challenge me on a daily basis. I’m so thankful for them! God is revealing things I didn’t know or realize about myself before. I’m finding that I have dreams, gifts and aspirations that match His will…not just His will for me, but His will for His Kingdom. I’m learning that I have no reason to be insecure in who I am now or the woman He’s molding me to be.
Shirer then explains the secret is to be content. We live in a culture that lives on the philosophy of happiness that trains its followers not to be happy. According to Shirer, “there’s always something else, something more, some additional requirement we need before we can really enjoy life the way it was meant to be enjoyed.” Since the fall of man, lies like the following examples (provided by Shirer) have been spun and are still told today – through your group of friends at school, through Hollywood and, yes, even in most churches.
- If you’re single, you should have the security of marriage.
- If you’re married, you should have the freedom of singleness.
- If you live in an apartment, you should own a home by now.
- If you own a home, it should be bigger than the one you’ve got.
- Your clothes should be from this vendor.
- Your appearance should like that trend.
- You kids should be more like those kids.
- Your standards of success should be measured by these standards. (pg. 18)
You get the picture. And this why it is such a refreshing surprise when we meet people who are content. Take Paul, for example.
Being content was the secret to his life’s success. It was part of his testimony. Shirer states that “it was a skill he had chosen and adopted, then had mastered and applied to his tumultuous life experience.” In Philippians 4:11, Paul writes, I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. He learned, realized, acquired the skill, developed his discipling and honed that ability. He wasn’t in denial. He just knew a secret; one that “gave him peace and serenity in the teeth of his ominous difficulties.” He had resolved to be content:
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot.
In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance
or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13
We can latch onto this same secret when things seem to be as bad as they can get or when “they’re simply just not what we prefer.” God can be trusted to grant us the supply we need to excel at His purposes. He loves us too much to “withhold the good from those who live with integrity” (Psalm 84:11).
What happens when we don’t follow the path of contentment? Shirer sums it up wonderfully in this: “…whenever we operate that way, the ‘every good work’ that Paul outlines – the truly important tasks and relationships of life, the ones that promise blessing to us as well as to others – go unattended and undone. We’re not able to fully participate, much less excel in something, when we don’t feel like we have the proper amount, the proper brand, and the proper type of resources with which to participate in the first place. So the ‘work’ misses out on our touch, and we miss the many ways the ‘work’ could touch us – the impact, the memories, the lessons, the experiences that God is knitting together to become a key part” in His story.
He has given enough. He always does.
It’s only when we choose to recognize this and trust Him and His unending supply that we’ll finally be able to engage in life in a way we never have. We’ll be living life to the fullest. Jesus came so that we could have life to the full (John 10:10).
Shirer culminates her summary in the following, a statement that gave me pause and forced me to review what I had originally thought it meant to be content.
“Contentment is the [holy] equilibrium between the enjoyment of life now and the anticipation of what is to come. Contentment serves as a guard against desires gone wild. It is the key to unlock you from the bondage of unrestrained longing that wells up within your heart and inevitably begins to control your life, making you a slave to what you don’t have instead of a fully engaged participant with what you do. It is the faith-filled belief that what God has bestowed now is worthy of gratitude and appreciation, not merely because it is enough but because it is good.
By choosing contentment, you’re not getting rid of your desires; you’re just demanding that they assume an appropriate, humble position in your life, not bossing you around like a tyrannical dictator forcing you to submit to his ever-growing and ever-changing list of demands. It means you no longer allow your yearnings and aspirations to control you, to rob from you the full use of and gratitude for what you’ve currently been given, leaving you unable to enjoy this because He hasn’t seen fit to give you that.
…this resolution of contentment will offer you an opportunity to look forward to tomorrow with peace and ease and an appropriate level of anticipation instead of the frustration and hurriedness that often accompanies our glances toward the future. It will be your ticket to live with goals and ambitions inspired by His expansive, mind-blowing will, without having to sacrifice today’s blessing.
In staying surprisingly satisfied, you actually receive the best of both worlds. You give yourself permission to enjoy fully the things you have, the person you are, and the life you’re currently living while continuing to harbor the dreams that keep you growing and stretching into the future…
…It’s a balance…A genuine gratitude for what the day brings, all the while maintaining a controlled anticipation for
what tomorrow may offer.
That’s the safe, healthy place where contentment allows you to take root and take up residence… [Contentment] keeps your mind clear. Peaceful. Settled. Undisturbed. Happy to be here, and when God determines the time is right, happy to be there. (pg. 28-30)
Finally, when you have “concluded that what you already have on hand is enough, that it’s adequate – that it’s been deemed by God as sufficient—then you’re equipped and empowered to participate fully in the tasks set before you during this season of life (emphasis mine).
What have you been rushing through? What have you been running to reach? What have you missed along the way? How many needs has God already met in your life that you’ve been discounting? Don’t succumb to thinking that only if you access this or that, only then, and only then, will you be content. Learn what it means to be content, realize what it means to be content, acquire the skill of being content, develop your discipling and hone your own ability to be content. Be content.