So I went to my Bible and found some verses that I could put into my mind as arsenal against the subtle joy-stealer of discontent. I taped them to my bedroom mirror. But some of my thoughts were “easier said than done” as I tried to apply the verses to my specific discontentment.
However, I really did want to work on contentment. So I checked out a book on gratitude. I begin to read it. I was again humbled and convicted about my grumbling, complaining, and subtle discontent. I thought afresh of how often I say thank-you in the good, but not always in what I don’t like. So one day coming home from work I purposefully stated, “Thank you God for a house to live in.” True statement. But the real kicker came when I forced the next words, “Thank you God for my home, made of stucco” to follow. I’ve never liked stucco much. But it’s a home. It’s safe, dry, warm, and full of love. My husband has provided it for me — it’s a place to live, generously given to me
Hmm. Gratitude. Sometimes it’s hard because I think I need something different. Do I need a home with a certain look? Do I need a home with flowers or a double garage? Do I need a home that rivals the homes of my friends? Can I still be grateful with something that is less then what I desire or think I have to have?
Further, I was going to a friend’s home on another day. When I drove into her neighborhood the houses looked like something I’d pick if I were looking for a house. Immediately I schooled myself according to one of my verses taped to my mirror. In my mind I said, “Mary Ann, do not covet your [friend’s] house or anything she has.” As we visited we talked of home renovations, the slow process, and the expense. I had to remind myself that she’s been married around 10 years. They’ve slowly built up stuff and made their home theirs. (By the way, this is the 3rd place they’ve lived. I’m sure their first year of marriage in an apartment they had very little in comparison!) She also freely admitted that before they had done some updates on this home that she also had some discontent! So when I returned home I stopped and purposefully looked at all that we’ve done so far (in 1 year) to our home: new paint on almost all the walls and some ceilings, a patched spot on the kitchen celling and brand new shingles on the roof to prevent further leaks, new kitchen stove, counters, sink and curtains, and a bathroom redo — the changes my husband has graciously allowed (and even done for me) in a home that he has had for 18 years. Not once has he complained of anything we’ve done, even just the “cutesy” things such as curtains! I then told my husband that I liked the big windows and porch (which I really do!). I thanked him for what we have done so far to update our home.
And then on yet another day, a friend showed me pictures of a home that her son who is younger than me just put an offer on. I saw an attractive home made of stucco still, but somehow pretty, with a big yard and a newly redecorated interior including two bathrooms. I felt the envy start to rise, and I walked away and said to myself, “Thank you God for my stucco home. Better a little where the fear of God is, then where there is much wealth and turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables with love than a fatted calf with hatred.” I asked God for love to occupy my home — my stucco, 1 bathroom, not newly renovated home. I want God and His love to fill every room of my home. I want to be happy with less if it means I have more love within the walls of my home. I was schooling my thoughts. And because of this book on gratitude I’m reading I also said, “I praise God that other people can have nice homes like that.” (It is hard to be disciplined by God, and retrain our thoughts! Thank God for His Word which gives us the help we need! The verses above come from Prov. 15:16-17 by the way!)
These are small steps I’m working on to renew my mind: verbally being thankful to God and others, memorizing scripture, and giving praise that someone else has something good (even better than me). These small, sometimes hard, but overall good steps help me rediscover contentment, gratitude, and joy. And honestly, this is just one area that God has been showing me my discontent in my heart. There are other areas that I’m less willing to be honest about. Areas that are harder to confess that I struggle with. And yet, listen to this, “[There are] Two kinds of people. Grateful people and ungrateful people. Those who whine and those who worship. You can hardly be both. ” (Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Gratitude). Hmmm. I want to be someone who is characterized by worship, gratitude, and joy. It is not fun being around someone who constantly whines!
Do you struggle with discontent? Do you struggle with happiness? What a gift it is that God disciplines those He loves! I am convinced that He shows us areas in our lives that are not in line with His will to correct us and train us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). So, it is humbling to know that my husband also thinks this is an area that I can work on, but I’m also encouraged. It means that what God has been showing me (my discontent) is a problem. It’s noticed by another person. God wants to root it out of my life, and He can only do that when I’m willing to listen and acknowledge that it is a problem. So, thank you God for revealing sin in my life that I might be taught by Your Word and be changed according to your power at work in me!