I went to visit my grandmother yesterday. My Grandmommy is very dear to me, both as a grandmother (and the best cookie baker in the world) and a spiritual mentor. In the "Share about someone who has influenced you" Sunday school icebreaker, I always have an answer, thanks to Grandmommy.
A week ago, she broke her hip. She’s had surgery and she’s moved to rehab and I stopped by after work to see her.
And she was smiling. She encouraged me. She wanted to know how all of the kids were doing. Grandmommy was a ray of sunshine, a joy.
|Visiting Grandaddy and Grandmommy|
Thanks, Aunt Becky, for the picture!
I was so relieved to see her doing well. I was happy to see her in high spirits. But you know what? I wasn’t surprised.
You see, Grandmommy practices a life of contentment. Anyone who knows her will tell you that. She is a contented person. Contentment isn’t something that comes and goes depending on one’s circumstances. It’s deeper than that. Practicing contentment enables people to be content in the midst of their circumstances, in spite of their circumstances.
And we don’t have to pretend that our lives are easy when they’re not.
It is very important to understand that being content does not mean denying reality. Does Grandmommy’s hip hurt? Yep. Is getting up and around difficult? Absolutely. Life is challenging, and hardships are… well, hard. No one wants to fall and break a hip! We don’t have to act like life is easy and wonderful all the time in order to practice contentment. It’s not a play; it’s not a mind trick.
I’ve been reading NT Wright’s devotional Reflecting the Glory, and as he shares his thoughts on 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, he points out the contrast between Paul’s outward circumstances- tumults, imprisonments, sleeplessness, labor, sorrows- with his inward serenity- patience, purity, knowledge, kindness, and sincere love. Paul doesn’t deny the difficulty of his life. He knows it’s hard, but he doesn’t complain about it. Instead, he focuses on the inward character the Lord is building, the work the Lord is doing through him.
In our lives, when we encounter suffering, our commitment to contentment is tested. Are we going to ask the Lord for the strength to persevere despite the hardship? We don’t have to pass the test. Suffering doesn’t automatically make us patient. We have to determine to be content. We have to look for joy and express gratitude. Little by little, we will get stronger and we will grow more patient. We will learn the secret of being content, and so demonstrate our faith to others.
“In all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God;
in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses…
by purity, by knowledge…by kindness,
by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love…
by the power of God…
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
From 2 Corinthians 6:3-10