My Journey to Joy

March 28, 2012

Contentment: On Endurance

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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I was recently reminded about the difficulty of maintaining contentment while enduring trials.
Two years ago I was reading my bible while doing research for a devotional on spiritual deserts. Tears slowly dripped down my cheeks as I read…
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
~ Romans 5:3-5 (NLV)
Our life was full of stress and worry. Winter weather caused endless problems and the winter blues were hitting me hard. The economy caused my husband’s job to grow ever more challenging, and our finances soon followed. I experienced a number of health issues that caused me stress.
I was pretty much hanging on by a thread. I was angry and uninterested in my life. My habit was to get home from work and just sit on my couch and wallow in a funk. I was not myself and there did not seem to be an end in sight.
So I cried as I read that trials develop endurance and thought, “I’ve had enough of endurance. Enough. I don’t know how much more I can take. Surely some day there will be a reprieve. Enough, God, enough!
In my wiser moments, I could acknowledge that God had brought me joy in spite of – and even because of – my trials. I needed only to remember the past to see how God had used each problem.
Even when I’m armed with that knowledge, it can still be difficult to see past the junk that clutters and distracts me from God’s peace and contentment. Suffering tries its best to be a contentment stealer and it will succeed if I am not careful. Contentment is not an easy thing to attain and hold on to. It’s difficult and challenging. And being content doesn’t mean that life is perfect and problem free. Remember Paul, he had contentment in every situation – good and bad.
I notice in this passage in Romans that confident hope comes after trials, endurance, and character. This isn’t my favorite journey to take and I have experienced plenty of sorrow and failure, but it does have a purpose. Suffering does not have to be empty. It does not have to be in vain. If I endure, if I keep my focus on God and what he has done for me, I will not be disappointed.
Salvation allows us to have hope. Confident hope. A hope that does not disappoint. I’m not talking about a fleeting hope that focuses on the temporary, but about a hope found solely in God. Hope based on God’s love and sacrifice for us.
There is no room for discontent in that kind of hope!
I have a measure of contentment now that I did not have two years ago. My circumstances haven’t changed much since then, so what is different? The answer is a hard-fought change in my attitude with much prayer and correction from God. My ability to endure has grown. My character has matured. And most importantly, my relationship with God has deepened.
I can have confident hope while my husband’s job continues to be unstable year after year, and while dealing with long term infertility and the likelihood of being childless forever. Yes, I can have the confident hope of salvation in spite of all this (and more) because of God’s love and mercy.

February 15, 2012

The Secret of Contentment

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 10:43 AM
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 I have read Philippians 4 many times in my life. I’ve always read it and wondered about the apostle Paul’s secret to contentment. This week I read this chapter again and saw things in a way I never have before.

Paul’s secret is actually quite provocative – the secret of living with contentment in every situation. Few of us ever scratch the surface of what contentment truly means, no matter how great our effort and intention.

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. ~ Philippians 4:10-13

 I will confess – I don’t know how Paul could live in contentment with all he had been through! I read his words and think, that can’t be right, he was in prison! And surely I don’t need to learn to be content in this [insert your trial here] situation? Paul can’t possibly mean that. Oh, but he does.

Did you notice the verse at the end of the passage? On the heels of saying that he is content in any and every situation, Paul says, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” I think this verse is often used too flippantly. Paul isn’t talking about achieving anything he sets his mind to. He is referring to surviving the worst of the worst with as much grace as living with plenty. Whoa.

My question for Paul has always been, “Well then, what is the secret to achieving contentment?” What I found this week is that he addresses this very question earlier in chapter four.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. ~ Philippians 4:4-9

 Let me break that down for my own sake (because I’m a list person):

 • Be full of joy •

Be considerate in all you do •

Don’t worry; pray •

Be thankful •

Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise •

Put into practice the things you have learned

If we do these things, Paul says, “The God of peace will be with you.” All these things lead to peace, and peace leads to contentment. This is revolutionary stuff! With achievable, albeit difficult, action steps. Paul’s secret steps to God’s peace and contentment.

Well, I need to be more like Paul. What about you?

October 18, 2011

Songs for the Journey

Filed under: Songs for the Journey — aunthoddy @ 5:05 AM
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Isn’t it funny how you can sing a song for years, then realize you had no clue what you were singing?! 

Jesus is the center of my joy, and He is unchanging. 

My marriage isn’t the center of my joy.

My job isn’t the center of my joy. 

A baby isn’t the center of my joy. 

He is.

Jesus, You’re the center of my joy.

All that’s good and perfect comes from You.

You’re the heart of my contentment, hope for all I do.

Jesus, You’re the center of my joy.

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