I find I’m having to re-learn an important life lesson that I thought I had down: contentment in every type of circumstance. I learned it as a single missionary in a second-world country, where I truly enjoyed my life and God’s provisions. Here’s the surprising part. Now it’s even harder for me to learn to be content as a rich-compared-to-the-rest-of-the-world American living in a nice house in the suburbs. Wouldn’t you think this lifestyle should be easier? It’s not — not for me anway. Here’s why.
In a couple weeks, we’re hosting Romanian friends in our house for the first time. I realize I’m nervous. I’m fearful of what they’ll think of me. I didn’t live like this when I was that single missionary they knew. Will they think I’m rich? Being rich is a neutral enough thing, so the big question is will they think I’ve opted out for the easy life? That I no longer care about the things I used to be passionate about? That I’m no longer willing to sacrifice for the gospel?
I do believe this is the life that God has called me to live, so why do I worry what others may think? Isn’t God the only audience whose opinion should matter? Besides, if anything, I suspect these friends will love me and my former teammates even more when they arrive in the States and see, for the first time, what we gave up to live among them.
Human nature screams that there’s always something you don’t have that you wish you did, or that you do have and wish you could get rid of, in order to be happy. You may want to get married, then you do and you want your husband to be more attentive. A better job is all you need, but you land it and find out you just need a better boss for your life to be complete. You wish for children and you get them and wish they were more grateful. When we receive the thing we think we need in order to be happy, we usually find it doesn’t bring happiness. True contentment only comes from within – from a heart at peace and full of joy in the Lord.
Why is it harder for me to feel confident and be satisfied when I live in plenty as opposed to when I live in want? As I explained this to a friend the other day, she wisely told me that I just need to be get over it and be content with the life I have. Ouch! Isn’t contentment supposed to be my area of expertise? Her words, delivered in a gentle way, pierced my heart like a hot iron rod.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phil 4:11-13
Whether I have a lot or a little, God still takes care of me. He’s the one who provides the gifts that I am meant to enjoy, and they are often better and more lasting than any material gifts could be. All I need to do is say “thank you,” offer my life and all that I am and have and do back to Him, and freely share those gifts with others. I will share my gifts with my Romanian friends and I’ll try not to apologize for what I have.