Contentment is something I struggle with. I’m blessed to have a loving husband, a home that’s not huge or fancy but that is perfect for my family, three great children, plenty to eat, the ability to work from home, and so many other things! Yet, I seem to have trouble being content with what I have. It’s so easy to instead focus on what I don’t have.
I don’t have enough money to go on expensive vacations every year.
I don’t have lots of new clothes and pretty jewelry.
I don’t have the ability to keep my house clean and organized without a struggle.
I don’t have time to do everything that needs to be done each day.
I don’t have a perfect life, perfect children, or a perfect marriage.
But when I stop and think about it, God has given me so many blessings that I don’t deserve! Even though these things may not seem like much sometimes, I know there are people who don’t have these things and who would love to enjoy them like I do. People who would be thankful for these things and not take them for granted like I often do.
I do have a husband who loves our children and who loves me very much. He works hard to take care of us. He spends time with us.
I do have the ability to “tag along” on my husband’s work trips now and then. Even though he has to work on these trips, we still have travel time and evenings together.
I do have all the clothing I need. It may not be new or fancy, but I never have to worry about whether or not I’m able to clothe myself or my family.
I do have a home that I love. It’s not huge or fancy, but it has plenty of room. It has a walk-in pantry that I adore, a separate utility room—which is something I’ve always wanted, and it even has a good bit of closet space.
I do have children who love their dad and me, and we love them! We don’t always get along perfectly, but we do get along well, and I’m blessed that we have close relationships. I know many parents who would love to be in the same situation.
When Contentment is a Struggle
Yet my greatest struggle with contentment has to do with my 22-year-old daughter who is severely autistic. Since she was diagnosed at about age 3, I’ve prayed for God to heal her. So far that hasn’t happened. I know God could heal her if He chose to. But He hasn’t. It’s often hard to understand why God has chosen to allow her remain autistic instead of healing her. I don’t understand it.
But one thing I’ve learned over these 22 years is that God’s plan is better than mine. Even when I disagree with His plan. Even when I’m not sure what His plan is. Even when I wish MY plan was HIS plan.
So Many Good Things
I can look back and see so many good things that have happened in my life as a result of my daughter’s autism.
We attend our church because a friend who has an autistic son invited us. She knew we would be welcome and that our autistic child would be welcome—even though there were other area churches that didn’t welcome us.
I’ve been able to encourage so many moms of autistic children simply because I really do understand what they’re going through! I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard other moms say things like, “I’m so happy to have finally found someone who really understands what I go through on a daily basis!” Because I really do understand.
I’ve learned to appreciate every little milestone that my daughter reaches. I’ve learned to treasure every bit of progress she makes. I’ve learned to be happy for little things that most parents take for granted.
I’ve been blessed with a wonderful respite care worker who has become a friend. She takes loving care of my daughter for a few hours each day so I can work and go to the gym or to appointments. And my friend is blessed to have a flexible job that she enjoys.
No, I wouldn’t choose for my daughter to be autistic. But I’m learning to focus on the blessings I have and to pay less attention to the things I’d like to change. I’m learning to trust God’s plan more and my own plan less. I’m learning to be content knowing that God knows what’s best for my family and for me.
I’m learning to be content.
What is the purpose of a mom? Sometimes we moms feel like all we do is cook, wash dishes, do laundry, and pick up after our families! We don’t always see our value. It can be hard to feel valuable and worthy of God’s love when we feel like we never really accomplish anything! After all, once we get today’s laundry done and meals prepared, it’s right there waiting to be done again the next day!
But think about what we moms really do all day. Sure we cook and clean, but we also guide our children, love our husbands, encourage our friends, and set the tone for our homes and all who live in them.
Who do our children look to for comfort when they hurt themselves? Who do they want to tuck them in bed or take care of them when they’re sick?
Who do our husbands ask when they’re not sure how to make important decisions? Who do they lean on when they’re stressed or facing difficulty at work?
Yes, being a mom means so many things! In fact, we don’t have a single purpose. We have lots of them! We serve as nurses, counselors, chauffeurs, seamstresses, disciplinarians, chefs, housekeepers, and so much more!
It also means being the ones our children look to for comfort and love and assurance. The one our husbands look to for support and security.
It might mean being a businesswoman or teacher or doctor or writer.
It might mean homeschooling or driving your children to school each day.
It could mean taking care of an elderly parent or sick child.
But no matter what we moms do each day—no matter whether we have “outside jobs” or not—no matter whether our children are grown or still live at home—we will always be moms. Our children will always be our children—even when they’re grown and have children of their own.
Being a mom means hurting when our children or our husbands hurt. It means loving our families so much that our hearts (almost!) can’t hold all the love. It means working until we’re so tired we can hardly stand up. It means kissing bruises and bandaging scrapes. It means making endless amounts of macaroni and cheese. It means reading the same bedtime story so many times that we have it memorized. It means making our children wear jackets because we’re cold. It means helping with homework and praying we got it right. It means watching our children grow up and leave home. It means changing roles as our children grow up and give us grandchildren.
One thing that never changes is the purpose of a mom. A mom sets the tone for her house. She teaches her family to love and to serve as she loves and serves them. She shows God’s love to her friends and family.
A mom’s purpose is to be a blessing to her family and to be blessed by them. It’s building relationships with her husband and her children. It’s caring and being cared for. It’s loving more than you thought possible. It’s understanding just a little about how much God loves each of us even though it’s hard to imagine a love deeper than the one we feel for our children. It’s a gift from God. It’s the best thing about me.
We had a bad week. Our air conditioner was leaking water onto the floor. Our gas stove was leaking gas into the house. We had air in the pipes that sounded like a ship leaving port every time a toilet flushed. Our septic system backed up. We couldn’t use our bathrooms, wash clothes, or wash dishes. All of this happened in the course of a few days. We were carrying loads of clothes and dishes next door to the neighbor’s house to be washed. In fact, we were carrying ourselves next door to be washed. It was a tough week and it was expensive. Mostly it was just frustrating. It seemed like everything was falling apart. Our hope wore thin.
I’m sure you’ve had times like that. We all do. We just feel inadequate. And in those times, the world is right there to slap labels on us: unprepared, unreliable, disorganized, uneducated. Often we beat the world to the punch and put the labels on ourselves. We decide that we’ll just never get it together, so what’s the point? Just wear the label and suffer through it.in the story of Rahab. She is mentioned eight times in Scripture, and in five of those she is referenced as a prostitute. Two of those are in the New Testament. It seems like Rahab just can’t get away from the labels.
When we first read about Rahab in Joshua chapter 2, she’s working in a demeaning job and living in a detestable culture. Like the rest of the people of Jericho, she had heard the stories of the Hebrews and their God. But unlike everyone else, Rahab responded with faith instead of fear. She believed that the God of the Hebrews would deliver Jericho and she recognized in that God something she had never known in any of the Amorite gods. Don’t get me wrong. She didn’t understand it. She knew nothing about tabernacles or manna or scapegoats or wave offerings. She had never heard of the Mercy Seat.
She just knew that this God was different, truly powerful.
She had a faith-filled hope in God.
God saw Rahab respond WITH faith and He responded TO her faith.
God sent two Hebrew spies to confirm Rahab’s faith. He’ll do the same for you. If you will just hold on during those difficult times, God will send people into your life who will confirm your faith, who will let you know that you are seen and you are worth protecting. The spies also delivered a promise: Rahab and her family would be spared because she dared to believe in a God she didn’t know. It’s not about understanding or having it all together; it’s about believing and trusting.
When the walls of Jericho tumbled down, so did Rahab’s past. She climbed out of the rubble of the city that defined and confined her. She walked into freedom. In time she married Salmon, one of the spies that she had saved, and they had a son, Boaz, who would become the grandfather of David. She went from foreigner to family; from pagan to believer; from harlot to hero of the faith.
You see, we use labels to define our present, but God uses those labels to describe our past. I can hear Rahab say, “I was lost, but now I’m found. I was bound, but now I’m free.” Now let’s hear you say the same.
Practice hope, it’s a choice, believe and trust in His perfect plan.
Forgiveness can be hard. Very hard. When another person wrongs us, it can be difficult to choose to forgive that person. After all, what if the person didn’t apologize? What if the person doesn’t deserve our forgiveness? What if the person hurt us on purpose or doesn’t even care if he or she hurt us?
Yes, forgiveness is one of those topics that is hard to discuss. After all, we not only find it hard to forgive others who have hurt us, but we often find it hard to forgive ourselves! We try to tell ourselves that we’re too humble to forgive ourselves. After all, doesn’t it show how humble we are if we refuse to forgive ourselves and maybe even continue to beat ourselves up over the sins we’ve committed?
But if you think about it, refusing to forgive yourself is actually the opposite of humility! If God chooses to forgive us, who are we to refuse to forgive ourselves? Are my standards higher than God’s standards? Am I holier than Him? Of course not! So what makes me think it’s wrong to forgive myself for something that God says has been erased from my past?
And what about forgiving others who have hurt us? If we know we must forgive ourselves for wrongs we’ve done, shouldn’t we also forgive others who’ve hurt us? The short answer is yes! We should. It’s hard to live with bitterness and hate in our hearts. It’s hard to love ourselves (or anyone else for that matter) if we have unforgiveness in our hearts!
You might ask the question, though, about forgiving another person who has done something dangerous or committed a wrong against you that can’t simply be forgotten. That does complicate matters, but I’ve realized that forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to allow a person to “get away with” doing wrong. We must still hold others accountable for wrongs they’ve done, and we must not allow them to continue doing wrong against us. In other words, we shouldn’t enable others to sin against us. For example, if your spouse is unfaithful or if someone is stealing from you, you must hold that person accountable for his (or her) actions.
Forgiveness comes when you choose to no longer feel hate or bitterness toward that person. Forgiveness does NOT mean putting yourself or your family at risk, though, or allowing another person to wrong you in the name of forgiveness.
I’m thankful that God has forgiven me for my sins. I’m thankful that He has saved me and that He loves me even if I’m not perfect. (Because I’m certainly not!) And I’m thankful that I know it’s ok to forgive others and myself. Life is much more pleasant and love is so much easier to give when I know that I’m forgiven and when I know how to forgive.
What would you think if your husband didn’t speak to you for days or even weeks at a time? What if your children talked about you but rarely spoke with you? What if your friends went to your house but didn’t talk to you while they were there?
Of course these situations sound strange and are probably pretty unbelievable, right? But when we don’t pray, that’s essentially how we’re treating God. Even if we read the Bible. Even if we go to church. Even if we sing hymns or worship songs. Even if we read Christian books. All of those things are great. They are all things we should do. But they shouldn’t take the place of prayer in our lives.
Why not? Because prayer is the way we communicate with God. It’s the way we tell Him how much we love Him. It’s the way we thank Him for meeting our needs. It’s the way we ask Him for guidance. It’s one of the ways we communicate with God in response to all the ways He communicates with us.
And it grieves the heart of God when we don’t pray.
Years ago my husband was filling in for our pastor who was away one Sunday. He began his sermon by telling how he was caught off guard by the amount of love in his heart for our first child when she was born. Of course he had loved Hannah before she was born, but when we welcomed her into the world, a whole new level of love filled his heart. An unexpected love that he never could have understood until our child was born.
He went on to tell how, as she grew, every little thing she did seemed so miraculous. Every milestone she reached made him so proud! Every noise she made sounded like music. Every smile lit up his heart and made him love her that much more.
And then, around the age of 15 months, things changed. Our sweet girl stopped talking. She lost the ability to understand speech. She no longer looked at her daddy with love in her eyes. She no longer laughed when he played with her. She no longer understood his instructions or tried to follow them. She no longer craved her daddy’s attention or sought his approval.
In other words, she no longer responded to her father’s voice.
My husband learned by experiencing Hannah’s lack of response toward him—Hannah’s earthly daddy—that God feels the same way when His children don’t respond to Him. And if we earthly parents grieve when our children don’t respond to our imperfect love, how much more must God grieve when we fail to respond to His perfect love for us?
Yes, prayer is important. It’s one of the ways we show God that we’re listening. It’s one of the ways we ask Him to help us understand His will for our lives. It’s one of the ways we thank Him for what He does for us. It’s one of the ways we acknowledge Him, communicate with Him, and respond to Him. It’s one of the ways we worship Him. But the most important reason to pray is simply because God desires a relationship with each of us.
God’s provision is such a wonderful, amazing thing! He provides for us whether we deserve it or not, whether we appreciate it or not, and even whether we know it or not!
Grateful for gratitude
I don’t know about you, but I really like it when I give my children gifts and they absolutely love what I’ve given them. And it’s even nicer when they are truly thankful for the gifts. It makes me feel great when they give me hugs and kisses or when they say a heart-felt “Thank you!” when they receive my gifts. There’s nothing nicer than being appreciated for doing something nice for someone.
But I often find myself wanting things I don’t have instead of being thankful for what God has provided for me. And when my children do the very same thing, it upsets me! I wonder how they could possibly be so selfish as to want things they don’t have when I’ve given them everything they need and many things they want. And then, without even recognizing it, I’m doing the very same thing!
Grateful for grace
But the wonderful thing is that God provides for us anyway. He doesn’t get angry and cut off our provision when we fail to thank Him. He doesn’t take away our provision when we don’t appreciate what He’s given us. He doesn’t even take it away when we’re ungrateful or when we fuss or complain wishing He’d given us something different!
One of my goals for this year is to start paying more attention to God’s provision in my life. I want to take the time to recognize it when He provides for me. I want to put forth the effort to thank Him when He provides for me. And I want to be grateful for whatever He provides without wishing for or wanting something different.
And to me, being thankful for God’s provision means being happy with what I have instead of always wanting more. In fact, my husband and my youngest child and I are getting ready to go on a mission trip to some very poor areas in Peru. This will be our third trip to Peru, and just like we’ve done the past couple of years, we’ll visit some areas where our team has previously ministered, and we’ll visit some places that will be new to us and some of which haven’t ever heard the Gospel message!
Grateful for the gospel!
As we visit these places, there’s one thing I notice more than anything else. In every single area where the people know Jesus, they have thankful hearts! Many of these people live in complete poverty, yet they trust God for His provision, and they are absolutely content with what He has provided for them. Many of these people literally live in huts made from whatever boards or pieces of tin they can find. They have no indoor plumbing, no running water, only one set of clothing to wear, and minimal food, yet they are joyful and happy people!
It’s so humbling to meet these people and see how happy and thankful they are when we have so much more than they do, yet we only see what we don’t have.
And that’s the difference the Gospel should make in our lives. We should strive to see all the times God provides for us each day. We should be thankful for His provision in our lives. Will He stop providing for us if we’re not thankful? No. He’ll still provide for us just like we provide for our children whether they’re thankful or deserving. But we will make His heart happy in the same way our hearts are happy when our children are thankful and when they recognize our provision for them. And that is reason enough for me.
It can be hard to have peace when you’re in the middle of difficult circumstances! I know for myself it’s hard to have peace when life is chaotic and uncertain. I’m a planner, and I like to know what’s going to happen and when. I like for things to go according to my plans. When that doesn’t happen, I don’t feel peace.
I’ve realized, though, that if I really believe God makes all things work together for my good, I should be able to have peace in my heart regardless of my circumstances. I should have peace knowing that God will take care of my family and me and that He loves us. Of course that doesn’t mean I have to like what’s going on or be happy about my circumstances! But I should still be able to trust God and His plan and therefore have peace.
A young woman from my church recently wrote about how God used a quilting lesson to teach her about peace. Her grandmother was giving her a quilting lesson. The grandmother explained how there are many choices a person must make when she’s creating a quilt. She must decide on the fabrics, the thread, how to put it together, what kind and weight of batting to use, how to bind it, whether to hand- or machine-quilt it, and so on. Even if a person is using a pattern, there are still choices to make. There will still be differences in the finished quilt that’s made by one person or another. The finished product has to do with the choices that are made by the person who is making the quilt.
Just as the quilter must make decisions about each fabric and each stitch as she sews her quilt, we must each make decisions in our day-to-day lives. We can decide to be afraid or hurt or anxious. We can worry and doubt or feel hurt or angry. Or we can choose to move forward with confidence even when we aren’t particularly happy about our circumstances. We can choose to trust God, to love Him, to allow Him to love us. We can choose to move forward knowing that God knows the outcome even when we don’t.
We can choose to accept His peace.
You see, God knows that the hard things we go through will contribute to who He wants us to be just like the wonderful things will! God sees the finished work even when we only see the pieces. He knows how they will eventually all work together to make each of us into exactly the person He wants each of us to be.
Will you allow God to take the pieces of your life and create a beautiful quilt out of them? Will you allow Him to take the mistakes and the victories, the good choices and the ones you wish you could change and make your life into what only He knows it can be? Will you accept His peace as he pieces together your life?
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Have you ever been humiliated? Young children are great at causing us to feel humble, aren’t they? I remember when one of my children was very young, we walked past a woman at the grocery store who hadn’t had a bath and who wore dirty clothes. My daughter, not knowing any better at such a young age, loudly announced to the entire store, “Mommy, she stinks!” Yes, I was definitely humiliated!
But it can be a good thing to be humble. When we’re humble, God is able to use us to do His work! 1 Peter 5:6 says: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you.” In other words, when we are humble before God, He will exalt us!
Have you ever noticed that, when we feel like we’ve got everything under control, we tend to rely on ourselves and not pray or rely on God for direction? But when we’re humble, when we know we don’t know what to do, that’s when we pray. That’s when we admit that we need God.
If you’re like me, homeschooling is often challenging! It would be nice to have it all together and for things to go smoothly—according to my plans—without a problem. But I find that, more often than not, it doesn’t happen that way. But I also know that the times I rely on God, more specifically the times I have no choice but to rely on God, are the times everything goes the best! When I’m forced to humble myself, God is always ALWAYS there to guide me.
And the amazing thing is that, even though God knows we’re going to fall flat on our faces, He still allows us to make our own choices and choose our own paths. But He’s faithful no matter how badly we mess up to be there for us when we turn back to Him. All we have to do is humble ourselves.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that we are the most teachable when we humble ourselves! Many years ago, I tutored a young boy in reading. He was about 6 or 7 years old. He was having trouble learning to read because he simply refused to believe that the teacher at his school knew more about reading than he did. If the teacher said a certain letter made a certain sound, the little boy refused to believe her. He wanted to decide for himself what sound that letter made. And as long as he insisted that he knew more than the teacher, he wasn’t going to learn to read!
As you read about the young man in the situation above, you may have thought to yourself, “How in the world could that little boy have thought he knew more than his teacher? He was only 6 years old! Did he really think he knew more than an adult who has been reading for many years?” It just sounds silly, doesn’t it?
Do you know when that little boy finally learned to read? Yep, that’s right! When he humbled himself and realized that, no matter how smart he thought he was or how much he wanted to decide for himself what sounds the letters make, he didn’t have the answers!
So often we are like that little boy. We think we have the answers. We rely on ourselves. And I can just imagine God asking Himself when we’re finally going to humble ourselves so He can use us for His purposes and teach us what He wants us to know.
So remember on hard days and days when everything seems to be going wrong that those are the very days we need now and then. They teach us to be humble. To rely on God. To allow Him to teach us and make us into the best we can be. Into what He knows we can be.
Faith can sometimes be hard to come by. It’s hard to have faith when our prayers seem to go unanswered. When our children suffer from long term illness that God doesn’t heal. When we don’t understand why.
The truth is that I used to call my own faith into question when God didn’t heal my daughter of autism. It truly shook my faith and made me question God and His goodness. I simply (honestly) didn’t understand why God would choose not to heal her of her suffering.
Over the years, though, I’ve learned some things about God and our faith. And while I’m certainly no expert, I’ll share with you my thoughts.
Thoughts on Faith
- God knows better than we do. We can rest assured that, no matter what we think is best, God knows what’s best for each of us. Even though we honestly, sincerely believe what we want is good (even best) in a particular situation, only God truly knows best.
- Is it really faith if we only trust God when things go our way? You know, it’s easy to get along with people when they do what we want them to do, isn’t it? It’s easy to love our children, get along with our spouses or co-workers, and have faith in God when things are going along nicely for us. What isn’t so easy, though, is believing in God’s love and goodness when He doesn’t do what we want Him to do. Yet if we truly do have faith in God, we must have it whether or not we understand or agree with God’s plan for our lives.
- God’s grace is sufficient in all circumstances. Paul asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” In fact, he said he pleaded with God three times to remove it. Yet God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” So how did Paul respond? This way: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
- If we knew God’s plans for us, then faith wouldn’t be required. If things always went along as we wanted them to, according to our own plans, we might easily begin to think that we have everything under control and that we don’t need God in our lives.
I have to be honest and say that, if God were willing, I would have Him heal my daughter right now. However, I can also honestly say that my faith in God does not depend on His healing her. I choose to have faith in God and to believe in His goodness and His perfect plan for my daughter’s life whether or not He heals her. I choose to have faith.
Does it mean I’m not a Christian if I’m suffering from depression? If I lack joy?
This month’s topic is joy. As I considered what it means to have joy, I began to think back on the years in my life when joy was hard to come by. I dealt with depression off and on for many years, and as if I wasn’t already dealing with enough, I also worried that maybe I wasn’t a Christian (or at least I wasn’t a “good” Christian) if I was depressed. I mean, Christians are supposed to be happy all the time, right? Doesn’t God promise us joy right there in the Bible? So what’s wrong with me? How can I possibly be depressed if God has promised me joy?
Romans 15: 12-13 says:
12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
First, you need to know that Christians can (and do!) suffer from depression just like anyone else. It’s true that we have hope for the future because of our salvation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we will always be happy or that we can force ourselves to feel happy. That we’ll never get depressed. That we’ll always smile and be cheerful and content with our circumstances. We live in a world that is imperfect, and as long as we live in this world, we have to deal with the effects of imperfection.
Many years ago, I went through a very hard time. My first child, now age 21, was diagnosed with severe autism. For about a year after that, I was extremely depressed. The only reason I was willing to keep on living was because I knew that my child needed me. Life didn’t seem worth living any more. I still had a husband who loved me and who took wonderful care of me and our child. I still had a place to live and plenty of food to eat and clothes to wear. But none of it seemed to matter very much any more.
I wanted to care. I wanted to feel happy. I wanted to have joy. But I didn’t know how.
I was ashamed
I was ashamed to admit how depressed I was to anyone else. I was afraid they would think I wasn’t a Christian if I was depressed. I was afraid my husband would think I didn’t love him or that I didn’t appreciate how he worked so hard to take good care of us. I was afraid the people at church would look down on me. I was afraid God would be disappointed in me. I was afraid that, if I admitted I was depressed, I would then be obligated to do something to get better, and I had no idea what to do.
One day I gave in and decided to seek out help. It was one of the best things I ever did for myself and my family! I saw a doctor and tried taking medication. It took some time, but after a couple of tries, we found one that worked well for me. (Yes, it’s ok for Christians to take medication to treat depression when we need it! Depression is often caused by a chemical imbalance, and it may be necessary for a few months or even years to take medication to get things back in balance. We don’t hesitate to take medications for other illnesses, and we shouldn’t feel guilty for taking medication for depression either.) I also saw a Christian counselor who helped me learn better ways to deal with stress. It wasn’t immediate, but I began to feel better and eventually felt like myself again!
I learned to feel joy again
All these years later, I can truly say that I no longer suffer from depression. I do have “down” days now and then, but I no longer feel hopeless and helpless. I can (on most days!) sincerely say that I feel the joy I once lacked. The joy that God promises us in the Bible. Through those years of depression, I learned a lot about relying on God, being willing to seek out help when I need it, being honest with myself and my family, taking medication when needed, not being so hard on myself, and taking better care of myself. I learned to hang in there during the hard times and to allow myself to feel happiness without guilt during the good times. I learned to feel joy again.