As I continue to consider contentment, I realize both in my life and in the lives of many I speak to that when our life circumstances change, we often struggle to be content with our new life.
For example, when I compare my life before and after children, I see significant differences. The things I used to enjoy doing, such as sleeping in, spending a quiet afternoon reading uninterrupted, playing a round of golf, are all distant memories now. I would still enjoy doing those things but do not realistically have the opportunity to do them anymore. I have a choice how to respond to this. I think I used to be more resentful sometimes at this; I can justify it by saying that I deserve more time to myself. But upon reflection (takes a long time, I am a slow learner perhaps) I can see a lot that is selfish in that way of thinking. I must not ever think that children are an inconvenience or a stumbling block in doing what I really want to do. Children are a gift from God. My life consists of more playgrounds, nappy changes, and story reading than I would personally choose, but this is the situation God has me in, and it is a good situation! I need to cultivate thankfulness and contentment, not resentment and selfishness.
It reminds me of that passage in Philippians 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, “Rejoice.” It’s a difficult little word – “always”. Even when your situation is not perfect.
And it is not just about children, though at church with many new children born lately I do see many parents struggling with coming to terms with their life being different and their freedoms being less. It is also a problem for people who get married and discover all their life has another person in it. Or for people whose work moves them to another country away from their family and all that is familiar. Or for those who have a family member struck down by a chronic sickness and have to adjust to things being different, possibly forever.
God is good, all the time. And all of us need to be thankful for where we, in God’s wisdom and grace, we find ourselves at the moment. How can I thank God and serve God now? Not in some ideal world, when everything is perfect, but now? That is what I want to keep asking myself.