Contentment can be an elusive state. For as long as I can remember I have preached to loved ones that contentment can’t be dependent upon circumstances, possessions or relationships. It is something we establish in our minds and spirits.
This sounds a little trite and maybe even kind of pious, but I believed it then and I believe it now. The problem is I recently came to realize that while I fully apply that principle to my life, I am still struggling with contentment.
I don’t long for a fancier car, a bigger house, a different job or a cuter husband. I have every earthy thing I could ever want, and I think I show that. So, by Merriam-Webster’s definition, I am content. It says, “Feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status or situation.”
My lack of contentment is found in the definition in
A state of mind in which one's desires are confined to his lot whatever it may be (1 Timothy 6:6; 2 Corinthians 9:8). It is opposed to envy (James 3:16), avarice (Hebrews 13:5), ambition (Proverbs 13:10), anxiety (Matthew 6:25, 34), and repining (1 Corinthians 10:10). It arises from the inward disposition, and is the offspring of humility, and of an intelligent consideration of the rectitude and benignity of divine providence (Psalm 96:1, 2; 145), the greatness of the divine promises (2 Peter 1:4), and our own unworthiness (Genesis 32:10); as well as from the view the gospel opens up to us of rest and peace hereafter (Romans 5:2).
I’m fine except for that one part about contentment being “opposed to anxiety.” In most areas of my life I’m at peace, but I allow anxiety to penetrate my peaceful existence as it concerns my children. I trust God with their futures, prosperity, relationships, health and especially their eternal life. The problem is I am too connected on a daily basis and feel what they are feeling.
If you didn’t think I was nutty before, now you must really think I’m a wacko. When one of my kids is having a bad day, I’m right there with them experiencing the fear, pain, rejection, grief, anger or longing right along with them. Their emotions are my emotions. It’s as if my participation in their struggle will spread the pain or challenge around, making it easier for them to bear. Since I’ve realized this about myself, and even as I put it on paper, I see how ridiculous it is.
If parents are going to please God by our contentedness, we need to let our kids go through their “stuff” without us tagging along for the emotional ride. We can offer compassion and guidance, when asked, without feeling the weight of the problem on our shoulders.
I think our kids want us to listen and care deeply but I don’t think it helps them to know our peace is stripped away when they share a problem with us. I also believe that if we walk through life in peace and contentment, we model that behavior for our kids and others. Even in the midst of their worst circumstances we are a calm port in the storm, not participating in the frenzy of their emotional turmoil.
There is an old expression that goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” I think it could also be said that "if Mama ain’t content, ain’t nobody content.” I’m going to increase my efforts toward contentment, even when one of my kids isn’t. Then maybe we’ll all have more happiness.
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