Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Contentment in the Midst of Chaos

" ... 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 all this through him who gives me strength." ~Philippians 4:11-13

     We've all been there. Chaos. Too many demands and not enough time to meet them. Too much stuff and not enough place to put it. Too much emotion and not enough time to sort through them. How do you deal with chaos in your life? Do you run from it? Do you ignore it? Do you stand strong in your own strength? 

     Sometimes we can look at our situation and we can remove certain unessential things and make our lives less hectic, and sometimes, it's just not possible. Life is hard. 

      Sometimes, what we need to do is get out of our own head. Seeing someone else's perspective can help us put our own in it's proper place. And often the best way to gain some perspective is not from your friend who looks at everything the same way as you do. Look at a different country or a different time, or get to know someone in different circumstances than you. 

     When I was in college I went on a missions trip to the Mexican slums. We were helping people who lived in the trash heaps of Mexico to build permanent homes, instead of the homes built out of trash that they were living in. During a break in our work, a few of us decided to get in a wrestling match to push each other into a mud puddle. We all ended up more covered in dirt than we were before, but we didn't care, we had fun and we went back to work with smiles on our faces.

      At the end of the day we did a VBS class for the local children. Those of us that had been muddied up left our shoes and socks by the front door of the church and went in barefoot. At the end of our class, we went to go put our shoes back on. A woman who we had been helping build an outhouse came over to me. Everyday I had been there, she had worn the same dress. Her house where she lived with her large family, was about the size of my bathroom back home. She had just received a small bag of donated clothes from the mission and she came over to me to offer me a pair of clean socks because mine were covered in mud. 

     This woman lived in a situation that was "chaotic" by our US standards. She had very little, no running water, dirt floors, lots of people in a small space. But she chose, out of her poverty to be kind and share. With me, who had a drawer full of so many socks back home that I could barely close it. I thanked her kindly but let her know to the best of my ability in my limited Spanish that I would be okay, I had more socks. 

     I tell this story because I think its a great example of the perspective I am talking about. What would your attitude be in her situation? Would you have enough compassion left to be giving to others? Or would you be so overwhelmed by your own miserable situation to feel that you had nothing to give, nothing to offer someone else because your own concerns overwhelmed you? 

     I don't speak from a place of contentment. I struggle with wishing for more. I can get stuck in focusing on the negatives of my life that I wish I could change. There's a dangerous idea in our culture that has even infected the church. The idea that if our life isn't how we want it we can just change it by a conscious effort. That anything that is hard or not how we want it, we shouldn't have to deal with. Tell that to the person who will spend the rest of their life in a wheel chair, or who has lost their child, or who has terminal cancer. Sometimes, things aren't fixable. But our attitude IS. We can always fix our perspective, our compassion for others, our gratefulness for what we DO have rather than our negativity for what we don't. 

"I can do all this through him who gives me strength." 
~Philippians 4:11-13

     It's God's strength and not our own who can carry us through whatever difficulty we face. It's God's perspective that will bring us contentment. Knowing that he has placed us EXACTLY where we are for a purpose and a reason.

  "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
~Romans 8:28

     Whatever you face right now, there is hope. No matter how hard it seems and how much you would rather give up. DO GIVE UP! Give up yourself and take on God's strength. Give up your hurt and take on God's peace. Give up your negativity and take on God's hope that your life has meaning and purpose. Be content, not because everything is FINALLY perfect but because there is a job you have right here and now. Do YOUR best and be content, because that IS enough. 

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I love to hear your thoughts and get to know you better! "He who restrains his words has knowledge,
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