1 Timothy 6:6 'Now godliness with contentment is great gain'
I've been thinking quite a lot about contentment lately. Previously I've considered how we can make a positive choice to be thankful, and how we can choose how we talk about things, particularly our children.
Right now, I feel a temptation to be discontent. I have been feeling envious of others who seem to have on-hand grandparents who take an active role in their grandchildrens' lives and who try to help the parents get some rest/ time together/ enable them to attend doctors appointments without the children etc. For us, both sets of grandparents live 250 miles away. One set will willingly travel to us for the day and help if there is a specific need, but it does feel like a big thing to ask (and so we would only ask for big things, like interviews or operations). The other set are not interested at all, and never seem to consider how my husband and I manage to get our schedules to work out so that one of us is always home with the children. Lately, we've both had heavy workloads extending into most evenings, and it seems too long since we've really had much time together. And with the tiredness comes a tendency towards self-pity.
And as you may know, that starts a nasty downward spiral of negativity that helps nobody.
'Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord; looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled...' Hebrews 12:14-15
There is a lot in there. I am very struck by the link between missing God's grace, and the emergence of a root of bitterness; in my life this is very often the case. Bitterness often comes when one feels wronged, as though somebody has owed something but not paid up. I can feel bitter because I feel that some of our family somehow owe us something, relating to help and support with the grandchildren (or just generally, an interest in our lives). But the truth is, they don't. And there are many children who don't even have living grandparents, or families where the father or mother has died. But more than that, more than looking at the situations of those who have difficulties in this present life, there is a far greater and more positive challenge to consider:
'Now I say that the heir, so long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba Father!'. Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ'. Galatians 4:1-7
There is nothing greater than that. To be adopted - to have the same rights as a biological child. So whilst my parents might not provide any comfort or encouragement, I have a FATHER in heaven, God Himself who gives abundantly more than I could ever ask or imagine if I only would look to Him and receive that precious gift of grace. You see, I think when we look at those things that we don't have, and start to feel sad about these, we miss the much greater blessings that we have in the spiritual, eternal realm.
'When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me'. Psalm 27:10
I remember the first time I read that, coming from a broken and dysfunctional home. God knows that some of us feel hurt and rejected by our own family, but He will receive us and give us the right to become His adopted children. How can I feel self-pity when this is the reality?
'Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal'. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Tiredness, loneliness, chronic aches and pains, repeated disobedience from the children, endless sweeping up crumbs, constant interruptions, broken nights - all these things are 'light and momentary afflictions'. In fact, more than that, I see them as exactly the type of challenges referred to by both the Apostles James and Peter, which develop in us all manner of godly characteristics. Because parenting truly is teaching me to deny myself, to not be selfish, to love unconditionally, to go the extra mile. It humbles me. It draws me to my knees. There are days (the days we all prefer to blog about, the ones when we put photographs on Facebook) when we see the sweet, rich rewards of investing in our children. But there are days when it feels more about endurance, peace, perseverance, patience and trying to continue to demonstrate joy, love and gentleness throughout (cf Galatians 5:22!)
These things are not unknown to the God who is our adopted Father. He knows our pains, tears, frustrations. He knows the wounds that broken relationships may bring. He knows the desires of our heart. Yet this same God, back in the early days of history, told the children of Israel 'do not covet'. 'You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wide, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything else that is your neighbour's' Exodus 20:17. That list would include your neighbour's circumstances, their social network, the time they seem to have with their husbands, and so on. I am sure you may have your own list where you are tempted - but the bottom line is, God says 'don't do it'. James tells us to 'flee from temptation'.
And so, I choose to look to where my hope lies. 1 Peter 1:13 reminds us to 'set your hope fully on the grace to be brought to you when Christ is revealed'. Fully. Not to set our hope on worldly comfort, or on relationships, or on our children's futures. Fully on Christ. Fully on His grace.
Today, I choose to be thankful that I am an adopted child of God, and a co-heir with Christ. As you ponder this amazing truth, may God give you a true perspective and contentment with where you are today.