Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ecclesiastical Perspective -- Part 2

"He that loveth silver, shall not be satisfied with silver,
and he that loveth riches, shall be without the fruit thereof:
this also is vanity.
When goods increase, they are increased that eat them:
and what good cometh to the owners thereof,
but the beholding thereof with their eyes?
The sleep of him that travaileth, is sweet,
whether he eat little or much:
but the satiety of the rich will not suffer him to sleep."
~ Ecclesiastes 5:9-11 ~

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been mulling over the topic of contentment and the seasons of life for some time now -- particularly as it relates to jealousy and comparison, which are vices that I've struggled with throughout my life.

So far, I have only experienced a few of the many seasons of life. But even in those few seasons, I've realized how easy it is to become discontent with my situation -- and it has nothing to do with how much I am being blessed by God! In his grace, I've never gone hungry, never faced fear or want, never known a true physical need. In fact, He has given me far more than I could ask or think, and infinitely more than I deserve.

No, my discontentment rears its ugly head when I start comparing my current situation with the situations of those around me. No matter what stage of life I'm in, there will always be someone else who seems to be in a better stage; there will always be someone else who seems to be happier and more blessed than I am.

When you're single, others are courting.
Once you're courting, others are engaged.
Once you're engaged, others are married.
Once you're married, others are pregnant.
Once you're pregnant, others have young children.
Once you have young children, others have older children with fewer demands.
Once you have older children, others have grandchildren.

The list could go on and on, and there are hundreds of sub-categories that could be added -- perhaps not being able to have children at all when others have them in abundance, or never even getting married in the first place. Perhaps barely scraping by when others have pantries stocked with luxuries and designer wardrobes. Perhaps a husband who doesn't seem to really care about spiritual things when others have husbands who are spiritual leaders in the church.

The more I realized how much of my discontentment stemmed from comparison to others (i.e., jealousy), the more I realized that my whole system of comparison was entirely skewed! Why? Because when I compare my life in that way, I pick a few blessings from someone else's life that I want in my own. Essentially, I want to be blessed like Suzie in this area, like Mary in that area, and like Jane in another area. I don't covet their *entire* life, just the areas that I personally want.

For example (and all examples I use are entirely fictional, by the way), perhaps "Suzie" is a phenomenal seamstress. So I start to covet Suzie's skills, no longer being content with what God has given to me. But, Suzie has to work outside the home, has a husband who watches TV all evening, and has a fragile relationship with her family. God has put Suzie in a particular situation, which includes both blessings and challenges. If I only covet her blessings, I'm not looking at the whole picture. Essentially, if I could somehow have the chance to be Suzie in one area, I'd have to be Suzie in *every* area. And when it comes down to it, I really wouldn't want to trade being a stay-at-home wife, my loving and attentive husband, and a healthy relationship with my dear family, for all the sewing skills in the world. I don't really want to be Suzie, I'm just isolating and magnifying one of her blessings until it consumes my contentment and blinds me to the blessings I do have.

So for me, one key to minimizing discontentment is Realism. Very often, I look only at others' blessings, ignoring the challenges that they face. This means my focus is on what I don't have, rather than on the innumerable ways that God has blessed me. I have traded the supreme blessing of contentment for an unrealistic, dissatisfying obsession with how "blessed" other people are.

That friend who's engaged or married? Her situation seems so wonderful, but no relationship comes without its heartaches and difficulties.

That friend who has a houseful of young children? It's easy to fixate on the blessing of children, while being blind to the challenges that may accompany that blessing -- everything from exhaustion to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

That friend whose husband is a spiritual leader in the church?
Perhaps his theological studies lead him to neglect his family.

Now, I'm not suggesting that every engaged/married couple is miserable, that every young mother is depressed, or that every church leader is secretly a wife-beater! But rather, no matter what it is that I covet in someone else's life, I would not miraculously find contentment if I could somehow attain it. Because attaining that blessing also means attaining a whole new set of challenges, and that would begin the whole cycle of comparison and jealousy all over again!

I love blogging and I love reading the blogs of other like-minded women; I have found it to be such an encouragement in my own life, not to mention an endless source of inspiration! But at the same time, it is very easy to grow discontent in the blog world -- it is much easier to see other people's lives through rose-colored glasses when you only see the parts of their lives that they post about. Personally, I desire to maintain privacy for myself and my family. This is the Internet, after all! So while I do try to be realistic about my life, those who read my blog will never know some of the challenges I face or the sins I struggle with. I have found myself thinking "Oh, it seems like they have such a wonderful life!" many-a-time while perusing my favorite blogs. But I need to realize that while I should be (and am!) happy for the wonderful blessings that my fellow bloggers enjoy, I should not idealize their lives or start comparing my own life to theirs.

Ultimately, no amount of realism can be a "cure" for discontentment -- there is no simple cure, no easy way out, because Contentment is a matter of the heart. But why make it harder on myself by building up unrealistic illusions about other people's lives?

I think of the Psalmist's word in Psalm 16:5-6

"The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:
thou shalt maintain my lot.
The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places:
yea, I have a fair heritage."

I need to realize that God has blessed me richly in *every* area of my life, and that He has designed my life and my circumstances to bring glory to Himself and blessing to me. He has ordained certain challenges in my life, but I should not want to trade those challenges for any seeming "blessing," because those challenges are actually a blessing and a gift from Him!

I Timothy 6:6-10

"But godliness is great gain, if a man be content with that he hath.
For we brought nothing into the world,
and it is certain, that we can carry nothing out.
Therefore when we have food and raiment,
let us therewith be content.
For they that will be rich, fall into temptation and snares,
and into many foolish and noisome lusts,
which drown men in perdition and destruction.
For the desire of money is the root of all evil,
which while some lusted after, they erred from the faith,
and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

All of the blessings of this world are fleeting at best -- no book of the Bible makes that quite as clear as Ecclesiastes! So what if I'm not as wealthy as a friend down the street? I can be grateful that I don't have to face as much temptation in the area of wealth. So what if I don't have a house full of young children like a friend from church? I can be grateful that I have more time right now to invest in my marriage and my interests.

Hebrews 13:5
"Let your conversation be without covetousness,
and be content with those things that ye have,
for He hath said,
I will not fail thee, neither forsake thee."

Perhaps some of the blessings that my friends are enjoying now will come to me in time -- accompanied by their corresponding challenges. But if they don't, it will not be because God is somehow blessing my friends more than He is blessing me. I don't need to fret over how He divides up His blessings, because I can trust Him to provide for all of my needs. Yes, some seasons of life will be harder than others. And yes, by tomorrow I will need to be reminded yet again that I need to be content with what I have (actually, forget tomorrow -- I'll probably need a reminder in five minutes!). But God has promised not to fail me or forsake me, and that is a promise that I can rest content in.

You can find my theological disclaimer here.


  1. I understand my dear all to well! It's a hard place to be and I believe that Satan tries overtime to pull us down in times like this. I will keep you in my prayers. :o)

  2. What a timely post this was for me! Thank you for sharing this as it is something that is very much on my heart. I have been following your blog for a time now and have enjoyed watching you start your married life. It reminds me of our "salad days" and makes me smile. My husband and I will be celebrating our 15th anniversary right after he comes back from this deployment. He is still my best friend and my great love. It took us almost 7 years to start a family and for most of that time I cried my heart out begging for a child. Of course, the Lord's timing was perfect and now we have two wonderful little girls who make our life so joyful. But I will always treasure those first years when it was just us. After we put the kids to bed, we often sit talking and laughing about those days. I guess God knew we needed the peace and quiet to get to know each other completely first so then we could enjoy our little ones when they turned our lives upside down :-) You are quite wise to seek enjoyment of the season of life you are in and not to rush it along.


  3. You gave me a lot to think about, thanks.

  4. Ah Shannon - you've really hit the nail on the head with this post - I too struggle from time to time in this area. In fact, I think a lot of women specifically do. My husband is always very good at reminding me that those who I sinfully envy will have difficulties as well as blessings, and they may envy me for what god has given me.

    I pray we'll both be able to rejoice over the lives God has given us, and be content with the many blessings he showers upon us every day!

    Thanks for sharing :-)

  5. Mmm, I really liked this, Shannon. Thankyou.


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Thank you so much for stopping by!