In the past three years I have called Haiti, Bahamas, Ethiopia, and Austria home. I still wake up in the morning wondering what country I’m in, if my mosquito net is down, why I can’t hear the donkey carts making their sunrise routes next to my window, or if that thud on the roof is a burglar or a mango falling from the tree.
The more I pick up my life and change continents, the more I find myself comparing my experiences; finding reasons to love or pick apart the current position I am serving in to the places from which I’ve come. This attitude can lead to discontentment, as I suddenly find myself instead of thriving on God’s blessing in the present, that I’m diving head first into a cycle of recalling times passed and thinking “How good I had it then, it was so much better before!”
However, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years. In the midst of trial and tribulation, testing and troubles we often find ourselves more susceptible to being self-focused instead of others-centered. I know in my own life, contentment always seems to be the most fleeting, but I’ve learned that discontentment is a direct connection and reflection of the state of my heart. It’s a perfect indicator of whether my heart is in a genuine spirit of thankfulness, or being overtaken in thanklessness.
I think it’s no surprise that the New Testament and all throughout scripture, our heroes of faith ask that we find joy in the midst of our circumstances. It was necessary that the Holy Spirit penned this sort of message so many times, because our natural response is thanklessness, and we need to be continually reminded we have so many reasons to delight ourselves in the Lord, rejoicing in our present situations. It’s this spirit of gratitude that allows us to flourish day by day, as we were created to long and thirst for Him.
We will never be fully satisfied without His presence in our lives, and recognizing Him daily in things big and small.
Paul asks us to be content in all things. He was not someone unfamiliar to the strain, wear, and tear of constant attack from both enemies visible and invisible. He was well acquainted to disappointment, pain, and how damaging sin can be to the life and health of the believer. He still loved fiercely; setting an example that in any circumstance he learned to give thanks. He had to learn it. It wasn’t immediate but something to be obtained over time, the result of continual abiding in Christ, of constant and intentional choices to give praise and show gratitude. I’m sure he could have blamed God for his chains, instead, Paul praises the Lord for them, and the opportunity to share the Gospel in prison!
I, too, have learned to give thanks in the midst of continual change, in frustrations with language, culture, local customs, and everything in between. When I first moved to Austria three months ago, I shook hands with everyone and went in to bump right shoulders like we do in Ethiopia. I said things like “Ishi, Ishi”, which is Amharic for “okay.” I was frustrated that my mind couldn’t unscramble from
English, to Amharic, then to learning German. I was shocked when I went from being the neighborhood spectacle in Africa to a complete nobody in my little Bavarian village.
In all these things, I’ve learned to be content, thankful to the Lord for giving me opportunity to have success and victory by presenting me with challenge. There is no place and no ministry that is better than the other when I’m in the center of God’s will for my life.
If hopelessness, depression, anxiety, or ingratitude begins to sneak in, I am reminded that there is victory when I focus my eyes on the cross, and surrender my feelings or emotions to a spirit of thankfulness to a sovereign God. Compassion triumphed over grief for Jesus when he ministered to the multitudes after the death of his friend and cousin, John the Baptist. When we are motivated to give, to serve, and to love others- the victory is ours!
We will find that our lives bear fruit as we flourish in the daily obeying of His spirit. We can rejoice in whatever situation or circumstances we find ourselves in, and find perfect peace in our Savior when we recognize Him as our source of joy, and the only one who can truly prosper us.
How are you thriving on God’s goodness today?
Photo Source : Gratisography