When You Are Hungry for Courageous Contentment Yet Thirsty for Change
It’s not uncommon for people to struggle with change. Change is unsettling, stressful and in some circumstances, even anxiety producing. But I’ve never been someone who struggles all that much with change. Mostly I embrace changes as an inevitable part of life (provided that they are positive ones). In fact, I almost sit on the other side of the fence. I become impatient when anticipated and longed for changes take a long time to come to fruition. And here’s my most recent example. You see, we have been planning to move to England for many years. We have felt that this is where we are called to go, despite the fact that New Zealand has a good quality of life in many respects due to the low population. My husband is from England and we still both feel very much drawn there. But our prospective move has been much, much slower to birth than anticipated. My husband has been required to complete a 1343 page application to be accepted to work in his profession! We have nicknamed this ‘The Beast’. On top of a busy job and a young family, this application has taken the best part of eighteen months to complete, and the process of completing it has put some pressure on our family as we have sought to balance work, family and completing this rather large application.
We enjoy life in the small southern city that we have called home for seven years. We miss our family but we have some good friends here and we live in a friendly neighbourhood. Life is good. But we’ve felt like we have been living in limbo for over a year now. Since we had our third child, our house has become full to bursting (by modern standards) and if it weren’t for the anticipated move overseas we would have bought a larger house by now. But we have had to wait. And wait. And wait some more. We renovated our kitchen last year because of a major leak, and this afforded us a lot more space. In fact, the house is pretty manageable with three kids now that we have an open plan kitchen. Before the renovation the lack of space in the dining room was driving me crazy, especially as I am home a lot. But I have wrestled with the fact that we could have moved by now, yet everything has had to be put on hold. I have found this difficult. Frustrating even. A blog post by Lisa-Jo Baker (who writes fabulously on the topic of motherhood) recently resonated with me. She writes:
‘We didn’t plan to put down roots here. We didn’t plan to paint or garden or change the sixties light fixtures. We didn’t plan to unpack those three boxes that are still stacked against the utility room wall. We planned to move on to something bigger and better.
And when that didn’t happen I spent years letting this small house stunt my hospitality and eat away at my contentment. I believed that large expanses of hardwood floor and flowerbeds would yield a sense of home, of having arrived, of being ready to call ourselves grown ups and embrace our community.
Instead, each June the dandelions bloom and we don’t move.
But this year I discover to my surprise that the house has started growing’.
In our case, living in the Southern Hemisphere it’s case of ‘The snow falls each June, and we don’t move’. For me, the struggle with wanting a new house has led me to be reacquainted with my old friend guilt, as I realize that to want to move house is perhaps a little materialistic. We have high material expectations today. After all, people used to raise families of 6 or 8 in 3 bedroom houses. I ought to be thankful. It is a nice house. It has central heating (not especially common in New Zealand). A bit more space would be nice, we could sure do with an office, a guest room and some more storage. Oh, and a bathtub would be lovely. But I am keenly aware that many people struggle to afford a first home, or struggle to afford children and a mortgage. And we all know that in developing countries even more people have a mud hut to call home. Amid a world with Isis and poverty, and violence on many a street corner, who am I to complain about my house? Hashtag #firstworldproblems!
A picture drawn by an Iraqi child as he fled Isis with his family. There are no words.
Hands up who knows that waiting is character building? Have you ever felt that you were stuck in a rut and ready for change? Have you ever felt that you are in labour and about to enter transition, yet the transition and anticipated delivery was taking time? God’s timing is never our own. In fact it seems to be a little slower, don’t you think? The Bible talks plenty about contentment. It says that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content’ (1 Timothy 6:6-8). And Paul said in the book of Philippians ‘I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).
There are many examples of waiting that are far more painful than wanting a bigger house and a change of scenery. Many of you may have experienced infertility or the loss of a child. You may desire to raise children for His glory. yet this godly kingdom desire is unfulfilled, leaving a heartache in your soul.
Perhaps you are a wife who wants to honor God in your marriage, but your husband puts you down continually. Your love of God draws you to raise your children to love Christ, but your husband may be hostile toward the God you know and serve.
Or perhaps you are a single woman who longs to be married. You are committed to God yet you too experience both a heartache for hopes deferred and a loneliness that runs deep.
Maybe you suffer with a chronic illness and you long to be able to run, and swim and do things that other people take for granted.
You may find yourself say “God how do I be content with my lot?!” Do your really require me to be content in the midst of THIS suffering? It takes courage to be content. In a world of comparisons and advertising aimed at making us feel dissatisfied with the status quo, a person who is content with their lot stands out. There is always someone else’s grass that is greener, and in the age of Facebook the green grass in the lives of others is ever more visible, but we forget that their grass still needs to be mowed. We know that comparison is the thief of joy, and we know that being happy comes from being content with little and thankful for what we have. Perhaps however, we also wrestle with the idea that nobody achieves great things for God simply by being content.
It is only God’s grace that enables us to wait graciously for the change we desire, whether it be for a job, a husband, a spiritual breakthrough, a publishing contract, or a whispered answer to a prayer. But we can be equipped for contentment, even when we are camping out in the waiting room. I’ve had to take an inventory of the messages I am saying to myself in this season. For we know that there is often warfare against our mind, from the lies of our culture and the enemy of our souls.
‘And I am also encouraged by the promises in Scripture: ‘Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God. (Isaiah 66:9) ‘And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.’ (2 Corinthians 9:8).
To be content is courageous and counter cultural. We can even out the balance scales, by coming to the place where we are content, yet still ready and willing to embrace change.