What is contentment? To be honest, I have been struggling with figuring that out over the course of the past two years. Whenever life threw something at me, I find myself withdrawing - withdrawing from people, withdrawing from myself, withdrawing from friends and family... and I curl up in the comfort and safety of my blanket and pillow fort (yes, I sometimes revert to being a 4 year old). Even when I cannot physically be curled up and hidden, I find myself becoming quiet and meager, silently and absentmindedly going through the motions of every day, nodding my head to authority, and counting down the seconds before I can finally return to my little cat cave.
I think my last actual update talked about how I was going through a break/break-up in the midst of figuring out how to fight for fair compensation and dealing with health issues, bills, and paying for treatments. For the longest time, I didn't want to do anything anymore. I gave up on myself. I was discontent, but unmotivated to try and change anything, because it felt like I was just stuck in a rut that would never, ever even itself out. Now, almost half a year later, I'm venturing out of my cave, bit by bit. Of course, the pandemic also has to do with it; now that vaccines are out and the world is slowly opening back up, I too have to slowly open myself back up.
As an introverted feeler, I am very good at tucking all my feelings into a hidden box and letting it implode inside of me while I utilize all of my logic-skills to comfort myself. It is actually really hard for me to share about my emotions without having had time to process every raw moment, and as I'm still going through a lot of these pent up feelings, I find it harder and harder to contain the sadness, anger, betrayal, disappointment, and anxiety that have been overwhelming me. As I lament over the events of the past year, I find myself wondering and contemplating: where is the line drawn between lamentation and discontentment? Where does naivete and contentment meet? The Bible is full of faithful men and women who lament and cry out to God in dissatisfaction over a situation, and pray for change. Are they discontent in Him? Jesus Himself was tortured, humiliated, and murdered: and before all of that, He cried out to God the Father for a different fate. There must be some sort of range in which our humanly desires and needs somehow align with God's desire for justice, isn't there? We see God condemning the employers leaving their laborers unpaid. We see God helping the weak defeat the strong. He helps the innocent - and even the guilty - leave condemnation from man. God wants us to complain to Him, pray for change, and take action - but what are the bounds of seeking revolution and being selfishly discontent?
For the first time in over a year, I met up with a friend that isn't considered in my very closed "best friend" circle a couple weeks ago. It felt so freeing to remember that God has created each of us so differently, and yet so similarly to one another. We spent 6 hours together, catching up, talking about personalities, compatibility, and candidly speaking about our thoughts and reflection of the past many months. My friend is an extroverted feeler, and while we are very similar in thought processes, she is so much better at communicating everything. A lot of the things she mentioned were exactly my thoughts - down to the fear of abandonment and loneliness, and anxiety in biding time, and what trusting in God's timing while being practical feels like.
Over the course of the past two weeks after our meeting, I've been reflecting a lot on our conversation regarding being content in God, versus discontent with our circumstances. I don't think it's meant to be easy to explain and understand, even as we ourselves are going through it. On one hand, there is faith that regardless of what happens, God will make it work... but on the other, there's a practical and logical desire for certain things to happen. We see this especially in the Psalms as David praises God for helping him through difficult circumstances, and praises God for what He will do, but he's still complaining and crying out to God about the difficult, unjust, and painful situations he is put in. It's not about David being discontent with God, because he says again, and again, that God is the only One sustaining him through these hard times.
Rather than seeing contentment as happiness or satisfaction in circumstances, contentment is seeing joy in God's promises, and trusting in His promise. God's promise to David was oddly specific: most of us don't have a promise from God that we will be a king in our lifetime, or even that we will lead a happy, successful life. God promised us grace, mercy, salvation, and an eternity with Him. I know that's actually rather a somber thought - will we never get what we want in this lifetime? Are we meant to suffer in this lifetime, and then simply smile at the end of the day, because if we die in our sleep, we will be with Him? I think ultimately, as we focus inward on our own existence and circumstances, we forget our purpose. As Christians, we were not called to be successful, but to share the Good News. Some people are called to use their "smooth sailing" successes and achievements to share about God's faithfulness and some of us are called to about how God sustains us through the worst times. Most of us falls in the middle, where we can share about both successes and failures, and how God has worked through all of these situations.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." - Psalm 23:4
I wrote my final paper on Psalm 23; for those of you who have been following me, may remember that Psalm 23:4 is the verse that my friend gave me when I first became a Christian. He told me that things will be okay with my dad... even if cancer takes him away, God is there every step of the way. When my dad passed, I reflected again on that verse: death loomed before my family and cast such a deep shadow into our hearts, and when it finally struck, it was the perfect time. It struck after my sister and I had both graduated and found jobs. It struck when my dad's whole family (and future son-in-law) were with him. It struck after letting my dad hear the Gospel message through words, stories, song, and preaching countless times. It struck after a pastor was able to pray over him. God was faithful to the end. God didn't promise physical healing. But he did promise to walk with us, and I can see so clearly how he was present every step of the way, from leading me to UCR, my roommate, joining KCCC, meeting God while overseas, learning to evangelize, finding my way around the world and back home, and being by my dad's side for his last weeks. It doesn't negate the anguish, hurt, fear, urgency, and desperation for his condition to improve and for him to be fully healed. Even in his death, there was immense grief. However, as Jesus cried for Lazarus despite knowing he would resurrect, we are not held to the standard of being heartless and emotionless. Instead, we are simply held to the standard of having faith.
God is in every moment; and He sees our hearts, and is consistently molding us, teaching us more and more to find contentment in Him. Today, something very, very frustrating happened at work. A delivery that was supposed to happen last week was delayed for the third time this morning (and then for a fourth and fifth time as I was typing up this post, but that's beside the point). For four days, I have been coming into work very early, expecting the delivery to be on time, only to have very ridiculous issues come up that made the trucking company unable to deliver. There were even a couple days where I had to stay at work for almost 12 hours (per day, not combined), because of their delivery issues. I was beyond upset when I received the e-mail pop up during my drive to work that the delivery was delayed for three hours. However, this actually gave me time to have my graduation hat topper printed, and the person printing it at the local print shop actually gave me the print for free. It was 46 cents saved! It isn't a lot, I know. But in that moment, all I could hear was God telling me that it's going to be okay - because it will be. The source of my frustration was my desire for my time to be respected, and my fear of having to apologize to the temp worker agency, again. I felt humiliated for all these days I've been having to apologize about the delivery not coming in yet for receiving, and I've been feeling so bad about having to reschedule, because I know how much it frustrated me to have to reschedule on my end. But ultimately, my time is not my own, and my pride should not be for myself. My time is the Lord's, and my pride and joy is for Him.
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever" - Psalm 23:6