In last month’s Mom’s Corner we delved into the difficult topic of contentment. We saw that Paul had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself. However, we also discovered the root of this contentment was not in the situation, but rather in his relationship with Jesus Christ and his trust in His will. We also realized that Paul’s contentment did not mean he didn’t desire change or pray for it in a particular situation. Instead, he was able to fully rest in his Lord Jesus and wait for His timing to work.
This leads us to other important questions for Christian wives and mothers to consider in relation to contentment. We may agree that we want to be content and would like to learn this contentment. However, we don’t really know where to begin. We are too steeped in our natural inclinations and wrong thoughts. Paul is a wonderful teacher of contentment, so let’s again turn to what he has to say. Was there an area of Paul’s life that was difficult for him? What did he do about it? What was God’s response, and how did that affect Paul?
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Paul had what he called a “thorn in the flesh.” He asked the Lord three times to be relieved from his “thorn in the flesh.” However, the Lord’s answer was “no.” God had a purpose in Paul’s difficulty and was going to use it as a demonstration of His grace and strength in Paul’s life. What was Paul’s response and ultimately his secret to contentment? He chose to “take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
For me, personally, this goes totally against my natural, fleshly reactions to hard circumstances. What I feel like doing is to grumble, complain, be irritated and unhappy, feel sorry for myself, and try to figure out a solution. I am still at the stage in my Christian walk where I must choose to “. . . [bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) because it isn’t my first, automatic reaction to take pleasure in what I don’t like.
James learned the same lessons as Paul did about contentment and facing the areas of our lives that would rob us of contentment. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). The word “count” means “to consider, deem, account, think” (Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary). This is an act of my will. It is a decision I make as to how I will think about my trials. James didn’t tell me to simply accept my trouble, to endure my difficulties, or to grit my teeth until it was past. No, he said to “count it all joy.” JOY! Doesn’t that sound like an impossible reaction to hardship? It is, when I am relying on myself. I have the choice to make regarding my thoughts. God does the work in my life.
There are two sections of Scripture I would like to look at regarding our view of difficulties. These passages show me that God has purposes far beyond just getting through a struggle. What these verses teach me is that my focus is everything. My natural reactions put myself in the limelight. How does this affect my comfort level? Is this to my liking? Can I see anything positive in it? Scripture tells me that Jesus Christ is to be the center and object of my thoughts and therefore, as always, the focus. When this is true, then I can rest. Resting is the place of faith and trust in my sovereign God. It is acceptance that He knows what is best for my life. I am to count it as joy. When I receive trials with this attitude, then I am content. My joy is not in what is happening but rather in my relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:1-5).
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh . . . For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11, 16-18).
We know that our attitudes are, in large measure, the attitudes of the home as a whole. Seeing that Scripture teaches us contentment is important and knowing this from personal experience as well, may we seek contentment. May we begin to make the choice to “count it all joy” and to take “pleasures in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”