I’ve always wished I could travel. In our earlier years we didn’t have the money for such things (still don’t), but even if we could afford it now, I would not leave Robbie for more than a day or two. Oh sure, I’ve taken a few trips, but they’ve only whet my appetite for being able to see new places, have new experiences. Oh, how I love the palm trees, the sun and sand and blue waters of the tropics! I now have to enjoy my friends’ and family’s travels vicariously, though. I love looking at their pictures and hearing their tales. Laurie lives in Ecuador. Her stories about the native Indian people, run-ins with tarantulas, and life in a third world country are fascinating to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I really am content with my life as it is. Just having Robbie still here with us is such a wonderful blessing. He brings so much joy and laughter and love into our lives, and I wouldn’t trade taking care of him for anybody else’s life, no matter how exciting it was. It’s a quiet life. He sleeps a lot due to the medications he takes for seizures. While he sleeps, I write or work on projects. I don’t mind being alone most of the time. I always have something to do that peaks my interest. When Bob gets home from work he takes over with Rob for a couple hours, and I do get out once and while, although now I’ve become such a home-body that I usually prefer just to stay home with them.
The keyword here is contentment. I’m truly happy for my sister that she can travel and go on cruises. She deserves it! I’d love to go to Disney World year after year like some in the family do, but it doesn’t bother me at all when they go and I stay home. Through the years the Lord has had to teach me a few lessons about being content with my life. I’m glad I learned them early on, before these years of staying home with Robbie.
Contentment, by definition, means being satisfied or pleased; ease of mind. It’s affected by circumstances, stage of life, job or responsibilities, possessions (or lack of them), home, etc. It is influenced by advertisements, easy charging, other people, natural selfishness, and so on. It’s so easy today to become discontent when we see the fancy homes our friends live in, or walk through the malls with their expensive shops. We believe the myth that we need to keep up with the Joneses and their fancy vacations, new cars and latest high-tech gadgets.
Discontentment is a sin. The Bible reminds us in I Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 of how the Israelites grumbled and complained even after all they had seen God do in their lives. He sent the plagues on Egypt but spared them. He freed them, led them, protected them, divided the Red Sea before them—and still they complained. God provided manna from heaven and quails for their daily sustenance, but they weren’t satisfied. They longed for the leeks and onions and cucumbers of Egypt. As incredible as their grumbling and complaining seems to us, we are all guilty of the same thing.
The Bible tells us that these things are written as an example to us (v. 11.) We need to realize that discontentment is a sin and, like the Israelites, we will be chastized if we let it continue (v. 12.) The Israelites “murmured” over and over again (v.10.) Are our lives characterized by complaining? They compared the food provided by God in the wilderness to what they had left behind in Egypt. Do we compare what we have with what others have? Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your life be without covetousness, and be content with such things that ye have…”
This complaining and comparing shows ungratefulness to God for what He’s provided and planned for us. It exhibits a lack of trust in God to do what is best for us, and it shows a lack of discernment for what are the better things of life. I Timothy 6:6-12 tells us that godliness with contentment is great gain and goes on to list what those “better” things are—righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience…
What, then, is the key to contentment? Well, first we need to count our blessings! I think the turning point for me in this was visiting Ecuador (Robbie was able to travel then) and seeing first-hand a third world country. I suddenly realized how very, very rich I am in material wealth compared to most of the people in the world. In this country, Bob and I are barely above poverty level, according to the statistics set out by the government. We are millionaires, though, in comparison to most of the world. I don’t think there’s been a day gone by since then that I haven’t thanked the Lord for some of the things we Americans take so for granted—clean, running (hot) water, electricity, a roof over our heads, heat, more than an eight-by-ten foot space in which to live, etc.
We are blessed, though, with so much more than mere material goods. David tells us in Psalm 68:19 that the Lord daily loads us with His blessings and goes on to count some of them in Psalm103:2-5—salvation, healing, protection, love, grace, mercy, provision, strength, and so on.
As complaining, comparing and ungratefulness characterize discontentment, there are characteristics of contentment, as well. Thanksgiving is the first. “In everything give thanks." (I Thessalonians 5:18) Give thanks for the good, and also for what seems to be the bad. God knows what is best for our lives. Then, if we are continually thanking God, we won’t be able to stop praising Him before others. Praise is the second characteristic of a content life and a life that will be a blessing to others. As we thank and praise God, the third characteristic of contentment will flood our souls—peace, the perfect peace of God. (Philippians 4:6,7) When we set our eyes on the things of the Lord, rather than on the things of the world, we will be content.
I’m glad my daughters and my other family and friends let me live vicariously through them. As long as I can be content with that, then it’s fine. But far more important, is to not let little things like grumbling and complaining and discontentment keep us from living victoriously for the Lord!