Contentment: Caught Between Bitter and Sweet

Not long ago, I was reading The Brushstroke Legacy by Lauraine Snelling, and the main character’s description of her best friend caught my attention. Here it is:

“But then Bethany would give her some line about God’s grace being new every morning. She [Bethany] wouldn’t recognize a real problem if she tripped over it.”

Ah, the stark hopelessness of the godless viewpoint. Most likely, this friend Bethany has tasted hurt and disappointment of which Snelling’s heroine has no concept. Savor the truth in this verse:

“A sated man loathes honey, but to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.” Proverbs 27:7 

“Any bitter thing is sweet…” This speaks to my heart, does it to yours? Thankfulness is the crux of contentment. And how do we learn the purity of thankfulness? During the low times.

Contentment is a favorite topic of mine, perhaps because in certain areas I struggle so with it. Most of our friends/family have two incomes, and their homes and hobbies represent that. I constantly tell myself that our lifestyle is priceless, that the sacrifices are evident but worthwhile. It’s true, for us, but lately I’ve had a few nudges from God that I wanted to share here with you. Hopefully they’ll encourage you all, as they’ve encouraged me!

For Christmas, my dh sneaked a Point of Grace CD into my stocking, and their song “How to Live” contains a line I intend to stencil above my kitchen doorway:

“Have what you want, want what you have”…

Another one worthy of framing came from Tommy Nelson’s A Life Well-Lived DVD series,

“The best thing for us is not money. The worst thing for us is not hardship.”

And I’ve been mulling over something I heard Greg Laurie say on Christian radio the other day. I was driving, so of course, I don’t have this verbatim, but he made the point of how humiliating a death sentence a Roman crucifixion was…a death reserved for the very worst of criminals. Jesus was willing to die that type of death for us, and He tells us in the Bible to “Take up your cross and follow Me.” Are we to think that living the Christian life will be one of ease and prosperity? If it were, wouldn’t people be flocking to Christ in droves…all for the wrong reasons?

If you’re human, you’ve wondered why unbelievers always seem to prosper, while so many who truly love the Lord struggle with sickness, financial problems, relational troubles…yes we live in a fallen world, but how better to increase our faith than having to totally rely upon God? We serve a God who works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform…we don’t know what His purposes are for some of the things He allows in our lives, but we can know that it’s all for good, all in His plan. Most of us don’t know true suffering at any rate, not in comparison with many of the saints and heroes of the faith who have gone before us.

Another important reason to practice and strive toward contentment, is that we want our children to follow suit. How sad to have a child that compares their lifestyle to other children and finds it wanting. There’s nothing better than my gift on New Year’s Eve, when my oldest came up and hugged me tight, saying, “I love our family! I’m SO glad God gave us to each other…”

We really get wrapped up in a lot of stress that’s unnecessary, you know? Not only that, it’s a sin. It’s  called covetousness. When I’m old and looking back, I hope the wrinkles on my face are from smiles and not regrets.

“Have what you want, but want what you have…” I have a lifeful of treasure, how about you?

11 thoughts on “Contentment: Caught Between Bitter and Sweet”

  1. What a wonderful posting Mary! So encouraging. And you’re daughter sounds amazing! What a sweet girl! That must have made your New Year complete from the start!

  2. Thanks, Geri. It really did make my day. That she can be so happy with what little we have (materially) to offer her, really blessed me that day. It’s one of those special moments that I’ll bring up often in my mind and smile about!

    Thanks Shopping Cart Freak! That is a huge peace of mind, to know that we are not alone, God is with us and knows the outcome. I’m glad you found us here, and hope you stop by again!

  3. The world is just too materialistic nowadays. Children are not like that, it’s what parents teach them that makes them as adults become more like that. Your daughter just has been brought up well to value the important things in Life and that’s all you and your husband’s doing. I know I won’t be able to offer my son a Harvard education or a Porsche or anything like that ever but I hope I can raise him to realise that the things I do give him are worth more than all those things anyways. Sounds to me like you did just that and that, to me, means that you have succeeded as a parent!

  4. Thank you! But I know I have far to go. Honestly though, if we had plenty of money, I know my inclination to spend it would outweigh my ideals and desires of raising my kids to appreciate the simple goodnesses of life. So we all *know* that money doesn’t buy happiness, but when we get it, we still spend it as though it does.

    For instance, we’ve had Christmases when the girls were little, that the only gifts the youngest would get would be whatever dh’s boss sent over for them, or whatever the extended family gave them. So two Christmases ago, we happened to have a really good bonus and just went shop-happy for the kids…wanting to provide for them as lush a Christmas as they were used to getting “away from home”. Ironically, that was the worst Christmas ever. Way too many gifts, not that they were expensive items, more like a lot of little things. Then we were rushing through our traditional Christmas breakfast, and barely making it to the family dinner by noon. And the girls weren’t grateful for their presents once they got past the third gift. I felt ridiculous for spending like a giddy child, it was definitely more fun for me than for the girls. The spending! Not the actual gift opening process. Which taught me a lesson I’m not soon to forget! This year we planned on limiting it to two gifts per girl, but ended up adding a third practical gift for each girl. Much more manageable, and we all agreed it was one of our more special Christmases.

    Less is more! I guess we sometimes have to experience it to believe it though.

  5. I know what you mean…I think it’s a woman thing to love spending like that, although my DH loves to spend along with me. It’s funny because we went a little spend happy this year with LO (the rest of our relatives had a $20/person limit which was great since I have 7 people in my family alone so it was nice not spending quite so much this year on in-laws and relatives when we could spend it on LO). We also spent a bit more on eachother (me and DH). Turns out that of all the things any of us got the huge box that DH’s hockey net I bought him was in was LO’s favourite thing to play with!! And of course he got a Tickle Me Elmo Extreme from his auntie and, rather than play with that (his Dad and grandpa were more excited by it than he was!) he liked the nice treasure chest box that the Elmo comes in! LOL I love how simple children are…and I agree with you about it being more fun for us buying the gifts than for them playing with them!

  6. So true, I think all of us moms can relate to our toddlers getting plenty of enjoyment out of plain boxes even when up to fantastic gifts!

    The gift buying for extended family and friends is what has always pinched our own spending on each other and the girls. I love shopping for the perfect gift, and have homemade a ton of gifts in the past 15 years, but I’m ready to scale back on it all. When you have 19 nieces and nephews, one of whom is married, I’d much rather avoid the headache and just focus on getting together for food and games over the holidays. I guess, too, as I get older, I just want the hype at Christmas to not take over the more meaningful reason we celebrate.

  7. Same here! The get-togethers are what make the memories. I would love to start doing more home-made things for the holidays too, but I’m only just starting to get a good recipe stash-such as the wonderful one you sent me! Once I have a few more recipes I can trust I will start doing more stuff like that…seeing as I am not too experienced in the kitchen. I still have a few mishaps here and there!

  8. Everyone does (have mishaps here and there). Every try cleaning up a half a bag of spilled sugar from the kitchen table, chairs and floor? Sticky. πŸ˜‰ And that’s just off the top of my head…

    You’re doing great, you have the *want to*, that is huge.

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