Thursday, April 19, 2007

Can I be discontent AND joyful?

Kind of a weird blog title but this is something Kevin and I have been thinking about lately. This can be a hard balance (for us) to strike sometimes. So many things are sad, broken, less-than-ideal in the world, everything from big stuff like forced child labor in Cambodia, to small stuff, like the way a child disobeys or an unideal life circumstance. As Christians we know life is going to be like this and we also know God wants us to help the suffering, etc.

At the same time we are to be filled with the hope and joy of the Lord! Does anyone else ever occasionally have a hard time trying to figure out how you (practically-speaking) maintain both? I'm not a melancholy or pessimistic person AT ALL, but I DO feel discontent over certain things. While I think we're SUPPOSED to be troubled by troubling things, I want to always be rejoicing in and trusting the Lord as well.

For example, some things I personally am not content with include: the many injustices throughout the world, much of the way Christendom (now that's a big word) operates, some of our own life circumstances right now (Kevin commuting, our lack of involvement in our own community). I've read some books (the Bible!, "The Good News About Injustice", "Reclaiming God's Original Intent for the Church", "The Shaping of Things to Come", "The Irresistible Revolution") that offer a different way of doing things, much of what I think is right-on. I always want to transform what I read and think into actions that are truly pleasing to the Lord; basically I don't want to stop at just being angst-filled over stuff.

So I suppose maybe it's about figuring out HOW to transform our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately convictions into action for Christ. I think we will always feel a tension on this earth because it's broken. So we put our faith and trust in God daily, praying that He will give us the courage to love others in a purposeful way. We also pray that He'll give us a spirit of contentedness--not with the way our broken world is, but contentedness in His love and grace and soveriegnty and the hope that is in Jesus. Because those are amazing things to rejoice in!


Mike and Rachel said...

I'm currently in a book/Bible study on the book Calm my Anxious Heart. It is about finding contentment. It is really good and I have already seen a shift in my attitude and perspective. (Not exactly today, as I would like to be haivng a baby right now, but seriously the other days have been great). I'm not sure it truly addresses the global aspect of contentment, except that there are many stories of the persecuted people from around the world being content in thier circumstances, but it may still be worth a read for you.

lisa said...

There is so much pain in the world sometimes it makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry. At the same time, I am so surprised to find joy in the midst of it. So much joy! I am thankful that God is in control. I remind myself A LOT that this world is not a random, chaotic place. I long for eternity!

cathy said...

The only time I feel "complete" is when I am in church, worshiping God. I know He created me to worship Him, so I feel my whole life come together during those 20 minutes (too short) on Sunday mornings. The rest of my week is full of "why God???" It is so hard to reconcile even the smallest things--like buying pudding cups that come with too much packaging while my soon to be 3-year-old-son sits in a care center in Ethiopia. I feel your pain, and I have no answers. But I love that you approached such a difficult topic.

Kate said...

Cathy, its funny that you said the only time you feel content is when you are in church worshiping God. I have felt that way also, until recently...I don't know why this just came to me, but as I was sitting in church on Easter Sunday, my mind ran to the persecuted church...Where are they worshipping right now? Do they have an orchestra playing hymns in front, or a pastor theologizing (if thats a word) up front? Ok, I know God has everyone in a place (the rich (us) and the poor) for a purpose and that it's not wrong to be rich. But that Sunday I was discontent with where I was and how I was worshiping. In my new easter dress in a fancy church. I have been in prayer over this.

Lara said...

Brianna, what a great post! I think you hit on something when you said it's about transforming our thoughts, feelings and convictions into action.
Darin and I looked up all the verses that deal with contentment in the bible and 4 out of 5 talk about being content with the amount of wealth you have (i.e. don't strive for more wealth) and the 5th talked about being content in your own weakness, because when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Cor 12:10). No where did the Bible say we should be content with the evil and injustice in our world. And we are naturally going to be discontent that our redemtion is incomplete. But it doesn't do any good to just be angry and complain. So, like you said, we take our discontentment and use it as motivation to do something about this stuff, because right now we are Christ's agents for change.
But your question is how do we rejoice in the midst of that? I guess we rejoice when we see God working, when we get a glimpse of His character, when we notice His creation, when we recieve a gift from Him (like a new baby or a good friend) and when we remember His promise to return and redeem this world.
Thanks so much for making me think about this. I need to add much more rejoicing, much more action and much less complacency to my life.

Kevin Heldt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brianna Heldt said...

Thanks all for your thoughtful comments! I love getting to hear others' perspectives on things.

Rachel, I may have to check that book out. Are you doing the study thru your church?

Lisa, you are an amazing testimony of finding joy in circumstances. I'm so happy you're blogging your story each Thursday!

Cathy, I TOTALLY understand, I think so much about things now I didn't before, like how much X costs, how many people that could feed in Africa, etc. It's really hard to find the balance. Congratulations on your adoption, what a blessing!

Kate, it is troubling isn't it? I read somewhere where someone traveled to a very poor country but instead of learning more about poverty, they came away having learned more about their own affluence. I agree wealth in and of itself is not wrong, but I always wonder how is it meant to be spent? I am really challenged by Ghandi's idea of (incidentally up on Lara's blog) "May I live simply that others may simply live." What should that mean for me? My family? The church? I don't know. I would like to pray about this as well.

Lara, always love your thoughts. That is REALLY interesting about the verses you guys looked up, about contentment, and about what type of contentment they're talking about. You clarified some things for me and I am going to have to look up those verses also.

Mike and Rachel said...

It has a twelve week study guide in the back of my version. One week for every chapter, so it does pair Bible reading with pleasure reading. We are actually doing a six week study at church, over twelve weeks, so we come with two chapters finished. The author is Linda Dillow, I think... It really helps me appreciate who I am today and not compare myself to other people who seem to have it all together.


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