I’m in a small group at my church. A small group is essentially a group of friends who hang out once a week- usually studying the Bible, but also sharing what’s going on in our lives and just doing life together. After studying a passage from the Bible together, we have “accountability time.” What this is essentially is just a time to talk about your life and how your faith intersects with it. We talk relationships, work, feelings- all the things women love to talk about.
Since we do this every week and since I’m a planner, I usually try to think back on my week on my drive to small group, so that I know what all I want to say. So I don’t ramble, but more importantly, that I don’t forget something I really want to share.
This last week as I was going through this exercise I realized, for probably the first time in my life, everything seemed to be in perfect place: I just got married, and unlike what some warn you- “the first years really difficult! That’s when your most likely time to break up. Marriage is hard,” Marriage has actually been flipping fantastic this first year. I get slightly nauseated when I hear myself talk about it when people ask. I’m just honestly deeply in love with my husband and we’re having a blast doing life together right now.
We have a new home that I’ve had the chance to decorate. I’ve loved being able to make it our home- with little touches that show are personality and the comforts that we enjoy that results in the little smile that forms on my lips when I walk up our porch each night. We have everything we need. Rarely in life have I felt that, but after the wedding, the generosity of friends and family equipped us to purchase what we need to build this home together.
I have fantastic friends. I feel like I’m finally figuring out the balance between marriage and friendships and I feel like I’m learning to let go of expectations and people-pleasing tendencies that have derailed friendships in the past.
I’ve gotten to travel so much this past year- Hawaii, San Diego, Louisville! And I’ll get to do more for work and with Aaron, friends, and family in the upcoming year. Travel has such a big pieces of my heart and to have a job that allows me to do it and the paycheck to do it is such a gift.
Even with all these blessings, there are always ways to improve. I’ve always had goals- be more healthy, wake up earlier, read more books, watch more news, etc. But at this time of my life I realized I was achieving my goals I set for myself and sticking with them. I was doing the things that I felt were important in my life.
Lastly, work. Work has been a place of stress and doubt for me the past few years. Yet, at this moment, I couldn’t ask for more. I just received a raise, I was being challenged in what I’m doing, I have great relationships with those I work with including my boss and I strongly believe in the mission of what my organization is doing.
To be honest, sometimes accountability time becomes a time to air all our grievances, and as I went over all my categories of usual contention, I realized that for probably the first time in my life, I couldn’t think of a way my life could improve.
For those of you gagging right now or wanting to throw a book at the computer screen because I’m here bragging about my perfect life, please stick with me. I’m going somewhere with this. Furthermore, if it makes you feel better, I wrote this 8 months ago and life’s already done a number on me to mess up these perfect categories. Life has a way of doing that.
Where I’m going with this is this: Don’t believe the lie that once you have it all together, contentment will no longer elude you. Contentment is a choice, a spiritual discipline of remembering the reality of the gospel, not your circumstances.
Even with all these things going right in my life, I’ve still struggled with contentment in two big ways.
1. I start looking for what’s next instead of resting in what is.
Even with everything good in my life, I still find myself looking for what’s next. For example, I love mine and Aaron’s apartment. It’s been so fun to decorate it and it’s the perfect size for us. Yet, I’ve found myself spending time on Zillow.com looking at houses and looking at Pinterest for ways to decorate it. Let me be clear- I don’t want a house. We can’t afford it and it would be too big. Yet I find myself fixating on the next step, the next level instead of enjoying the place we have right now.
How I’m Fighting It: Gratitude & Presence.
As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve really been striving this year to be grateful. To note the little glimpses of joy God infuses in my life. Gratitude for what you have is hard practice, but it really helps. Second, it’s so easy to be in the future rather than actually being present where you are. I could say more on this, but instead, just read Shauna Niequist’s book Present Over Perfect. She nailed it on the head.
2. I feel guilty for all the good I have, and that I have no big problems right now.
Even when things are good, I can’t be content because I feel like something bad will happen to balance things, or that I’m unworthy of all the good God’s shown me or that I’m not growing enough if I’m comfortable. This is what Brene Brown calls “Foreboding Joy.” The inability to enjoy the good in life for fear of losing it or being unworthy.
How I’m Fighting It: Realizing My Place in Things.
While I was struggling through this, I stumbled upon Psalm 2.
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’ The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,’I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’
This passage may seem very doom and gloom but stay with me. What this passage tells us about God is that he is sovereign. He puts people where he wants them and ordains the circumstances of their lives for his purposes. No matter how powerful the king, they are no match for our God. For me, that means if I’m experiencing good things in this life, God has placed me in those good things for a reason. My job is to say thank you and obey him in that place. If my circumstances are bad, it’s my job to trust him and obey him in that place. It is not for me to feel guilty for my blessings or indignant for my misfortunes; it shows a lack of understanding of God’s grace and purposes.
I’m still working on living this truth out in my life. If you’re like me and struggle with foreboding joy, I also encourage you to read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.
How about you? How do you struggle with contentment and what strategies have you found in your search?