The Peace Found in Contentment

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

This song is ringing through every store, in every restaurant, and following you on your drive home from work. Oh, yes, the holidays are upon us. This can mean many things for you depending on what has your focus. As Christians, we can get caught up in the hustle and bustle of this time of year and even if our intention is to keep Christ at the center, especially if our family celebrates Christmas, we can be lead astray very easily with the spirit of consumerism that can often come with this time of year. 

As Americans, our culture seems to have a desire for more, more, more, especially when it comes to material things. Even if we don’t need it, if it is on sale, often times, we feel drawn to purchase the item. This mentality seems to be magnified in our society during the holidays. Unfortunately, the infamous Black Friday sales have taken over the entire month of November, and Thanksgiving, a time where we should be reflecting on what we are grateful for, is beginning to take a backseat in our culture. We are becoming consumed with consumerism. 

Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves, if we are always seeking and reaching for more, are we truly satisfied in Christ alone? Are we looking to material things, people, or great circumstances to find peace or joy? Are we content with what God has already provided for us?

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he begins to share with the church at Philippi encouragement about learning how to rejoice no matter what is going on in life and gives the people direction in what they need to focus on.

In Philippians 4:8, he exhorts:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

ESV

If they would put this into practice, they would experience the peace of God.

As Paul nears the end of his letter to the church at Philippi, he reflects on God’s perfect provision:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

Philippians 4:11-12, ESV

He ends that thought with the famous verse, proclaiming that he can do all things through Christ that gives him strength (Philippians 4:13).

What is most encouraging about this verse is its context, contentment.

The secret to finding contentment regardless of circumstance, having plenty or being hungry, that Paul is talking about is Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the One who gives us the strength and ability to remain content no matter what we are experiencing. True contentment is knowing that Jesus alone can satisfy our souls.

When we search for fulfillment in things, people, or even our circumstances, we will always come up short. All of these things we try to fill our lives with aren’t necessarily bad things, but when they become the end goals, and the reason for our being, they become idols in our life. We end up being discontented because those things were never meant to fulfill us. Jesus is the only One who can bring true contentment into our life. And

What makes this time of year the most wonderful for you?

Take some time to reflect and journal and express your gratitude to the Lord. If you are feeling discontented, ask the Lord to help you find satisfaction and peace in Him alone. 

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Count it all joy!

2016 was a hard year for me and my family.

While juggling with babysitting a friend’s son who was a full-on ‘threenager,’ I walked through a really difficult mothering season with my own son who seemed to always protest sleep since he was born.

Every few months, he went through major sleep regressions in which he would wake up multiple times a night. Occasionally he would sleep through the night, but the night wakings always seemed to continue for weeks leading into months at a time, night after dreadful night. About a month before he turned two, He began waking three-five times a night. This routine continued every single night for six solid months straight. We prayed (and cried), we had other people pray, we tried a sound machine, essential oils, added extra cushion to his bedding, and followed all of the pediatrician’s advice and tips.

Nothing worked.

Needless to say, sleep deprivation was my constant reality and it hit me hard in 2016. 

From all of the hormonal imbalances and added stress from the severe, chronic sleep deprivation, along with taking on a part-time job in retail around the holidays, I experienced a chemical pregnancy and battled depression on and off for months. Our marriage was also under so much strain because I simply was not behaving like myself whatsoever and was on edge or emotional all the time.

Feeling depleted and defeated was an understatement. 

As a Christian, it felt like such a fight to hold onto peace, hope, and joy. Knowing that true peace, hope, and joy are not circumstantial, I really had to lean on God’s grace to get through every single day unlike any other time in my life.

I knew the Bible told me that I needed to “count it all joy” in the midst of these trials, but I needed God to give me eyes to see the why behind that and empower me to the how as well. 

We find in the opening of James’ letter to the tribes of Israel, after his initial greeting, he immediately begins exhorting and encouraging God’s people that the storms of life are not for no reason at all; there is purpose within the pain. 

James 1:2-3 says,

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces [a]patience.” 

NKJV

We know that as children of God, our Heavenly Father is allowing these trials into our life to strengthen our faith in Him, knowing that He is always working things for our good (Romans 8:28). James 1:3 reveals that this sharpening or testing of our faith ‘muscles’ will produce a patience in us, which is a fruit of the Spirit. God will often use painful, uncomfortable, and stressful situations to sanctify us. We can have joy knowing that these storms of life and difficulties are molding us into looking more like Christ. 

Ultimately, we must remember that our joy is not anchored in this life, but most importantly, in the life to come.

When our lives are filled with trials, we must be able to look to the future—to heaven—to find the joy that can soothe our weary hearts. Our joy must be based on looking to God and to the inheritance we will receive in heaven. This is exactly what Jesus did. He was able to endure the cross because of the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:2). We, too, must realize that the suffering we endure in this life cannot compare with the joy that is laid up for us in heaven.

To be able to count all suffering joyful, we must be able to trust God.

Are you struggling with that kind of confidence in God’s goodness in all things and finding comfort in His sovereign hand in your life, even in your suffering? Ask God to help you find joy in Him alone and to give you a heavenly perspective when you are tempted to allow the present circumstances to consume you.

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The Pitfalls of Comparison

A few weeks ago, I was in prayer and was having a difficult time letting some thoughts go regarding the direction of my life. The enemy seems to flood your life with so many distractions that will cloud your mind, bring confusion, and cause you to question God or grow bitter towards others (and God) and mess with your love walk. 

For me, because of the way I was raised and also the environment I spent a majority of my life in (theater/acting/performance), I was so used to looking at other people’s lives and measuring my life with theirs, whether to make myself feel better or give myself a goal to work towards.

If you do not read the Word of God, this is how most people make decisions in life. They say, “Well, that’s how so-and-so did it so that seems like a good plan.” Or “So-and-so is just so successful in life and seems to have everything they want. I will just follow what they did so I can have that kind of happiness and have those nice clothes, car, job, house, spouse, etc.” Ultimately, if you follow this way of living, you grow resentful towards others and envy starts to grow in your heart.

Envy will cause you to look for reasons why you deserve what someone has.

But the problem with that mentality is this: comparison and envy give birth to ungratefulness and bitterness not just towards other people, but most importantly, towards God.

The moment you take that step into comparing your life with someone else’s is the moment you will find yourself in a deep, empty pit surrounded by pride, selfishness, bitterness, and envy. 

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom on how we are to live our life and avoid such pitfalls, as these things. Let’s take a look at one of these pitfalls, envy.

“A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.”

Proverbs 14: 30 (KJV)

The word “sound” in Hebrew is marpe, which means healing, remedy, calmness, wholesome, and yielding.

You can forget about living in peace or feeling complete or whole if you enter into the land of envy or covetousness.

Comparison that leads to envy has been a trap of the enemy since creation. The motive behind Adam and Eve’s disobedience was comparison, which lead to covetousness, which lead to pride, which lead to selfishness, which lead to ungratefulness for what God had already provided (all rooted in fear).

Are you in fear?

Then you are not in faith, believing God at His Word and fully trusting Him.

Anything that is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

When we compare ourselves with another, we are saying we would do a better job planning out our lives than our Creator, the sovereign Most High, acting like Satan who fell and caused Adam and Eve to fall.

Whoa, that is a dangerous place to be!

We are all guilty of comparing our lives to someone else’s life at one point or another. The only way out is to repent and renew your mind with the Word of God. Keep your eyes on Jesus and His Word. Cling to Him, abide in Him, and you will remain full of His love, joy, and peace- the only things that will bring true fulfillment. You won’t want anything else than what He has for you; His promises for you will be more than enough.

You will begin to trust God with all of your heart and lean on His understanding, not your own. When we do that, He will direct our paths and He will never lead us astray.

Take some time and right down ten things you are thankful for. Gratefulness will fill your heart with joy and leave no room for comparison.

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