…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11b-13
Ah, contentment. The struggle is real….
It wasn’t really that long ago that I longed for a pinterest-perfect life…before Pinterest even existed. I had pictured in my mind what a great life was supposed to look like. Loving husband, awesome kids, beautiful home, nice cars, a wonderful, high-paying job that brought me fulfillment and easily paid for all of my nice clothes and fantastic family vacations that we would take, every year. Surely THIS was happiness, right?!
I got to the point where I was constantly comparing my life to everyone else’s…and my life never measured up. Other people seemed to be excelling in life while I was struggling to just “keep it together.” Every time I bought something (to wear; to decorate my house; etc…), I would agonize over whether it was good enough and then would begin to look for the next thing that would give the appearance that I was somebody – successful – happy. No matter what I bought, wore, lived in or drove, it was never good enough. I wanted MORE!
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:9-10
My time was consumed with ways to get more money…more things. Yet, no matter what I accumulated, I was never content. Life was never about being happy with what I had…it was always about getting, or doing, the next thing. My days became filled with “some day I’m gonna _________ and THEN I’ll be happy!”
Looking back now, I realize how absolutely miserable I was. There were happy moments – but there was no peace or joy.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6
God had to change my attitude and my heart.
For a time, except for a mortgage payment and typical monthly utility bills, our family was debt-free. We weren’t “rich” but we were definitely comfortable. It looked like maybe we would finally achieve this “American dream” everybody keeps talking about.
But life began to quickly unravel.
My husband lost his job and had to take a temporary job three and a half hours away from where we lived. This meant he would have to rent a place closer to work while the children and I stayed behind (goodbye savings!). One of our cars began to give us trouble, so we were usually down to one car. This meant that my husband took the car and I did a lot of walking. We had two young boys, at the time, so we decided instead of getting a job just to cover daycare costs, I would stay home and take some college courses.
My husband’s temporary job became a permanent one, so we needed to sell our house and move. We found a house to purchase before selling our other one. I didn’t feel right about the decision to buy another house before getting out from under the other one, but the bank kept reassuring us that we could manage. And since the boys were both going into school, I was planning on getting a job, anyway. So, we went ahead with our terrible decision.
In the midst of our bad decision making, we failed to factor in the additional baby that would be added to our family during this huge transition. I know that businesses aren’t supposed to discriminate during the hiring process, but honestly, who wants to hire a pregnant woman? Besides, I would, once again, be working to pay childcare fees, so it was decided that I would continue to stay home. This also meant that I would have to drop out of college.
We weren’t making enough money to cover two mortgage payments. We were barely making enough for one. I would go to the grocery store with my list of needed items, knowing that we did not have enough money to purchase everything. I would shop – and cry – and pray. As I shopped, I needed God to show me what was absolutely needed and what I could do without. And we did without, a lot! Did I mention that my marriage was also falling apart?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”…“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:19-21, 24
I wish I could say that I was a super-Christian and trusted God for everything that I needed – but that would be a big, fat lie! To be honest, I was angry. I was angry at my husband, I was angry with my circumstances and I was so very angry at God. We were unable to pay our bills on time and teetered on the edge of foreclosure…for years.
I couldn’t understand why God was allowing this to happen. I kept praying for wisdom. We had made some mistakes (and repented), but there were also some things that had been out of our control. Were we so awful that we needed to be “disciplined” to this extent? Consequences for bad choices, I understand – but a lot of this felt like we were being kicked while we were down. No matter what we did, we just couldn’t seem to make things right.
I felt so helpless. Hopeless. Unworthy. Unloved. It was one of the darkest times of my life. I felt like I was losing everything…family, finances, security, a future. Stress and worry were constant companions. I dared not to hope in those days.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34
I had hit rock bottom. Our family was so deep in the pit that we couldn’t go down any further. Some days, I just wanted to die. The struggle felt relentless. There never seemed to be any reprieve.
But, every time I wanted to give up, God would show up. He would draw our attention to something that would remind us that He was right there. Small blessings would show up out of the blue. Areas in our lives that were utterly broken, slowly began to heal.
And God would speak. He reminded me that He would repay us for the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25) and that He had plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). As our hearts were turned toward Him – we began to change.
Recovery from those dark years continues, even today. After ten years, we are still trying to sell one of those houses and we are still paying off debt from that time. Money is extremely tight and sometimes we can’t buy the things we need or go to places we would like to go. But we are blessed. God has built up our faith, through perseverance. He has given us strength that we never knew we could have. He has never left us nor forsaken us. He is redeeming the past and allowing us to help others with the lessons we have learned.
There are still brief moments of wanting more; we’re only human. But more often than not, we are content because we understand the secret to being content in any and every situation…
…I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
My arms have outgrown my coat
but for the first time
it keeps me warm.
“The Contentment” by Akiane