When Contentment is an Uphill Battle

Sometimes life is hard. Not because anything traumatic has happened or because a big change is coming up, but merely because everything is staying the same. There’s nothing in sight to anticipate. The routine is dull and heartache is magnified because there isn’t any temporary high to numb it, like a relaxing vacation or a move or a new job or something big that shakes your whole world in a scary yet exciting way.

Today is one of those days. This week is one of those weeks. This summer, it seems, is one of those summers. College graduation is behind me and a lot of recent grads that I’ve talked to are in the same boat. And the boat is actually a pretty sad raft called “What’s Next?”

It’s a depressing question. It’s a depressing mentality. Because it implies that whatever is next is always better than what is. If someone is single, everyone wants to know when they are going to start dating. If a couple is dating, everyone wants to know when they are getting married. After a couple is married for a little while, their friends are dying to know when they are going to have kids. Are you with me here? We are never satisfied by what is.

So my question is, why are we always looking for that next thing? Why do we get a kick out of stuff that is out of the ordinary but we can’t enjoy each day as an adventure?

I don’t have an answer. I’m wrestling with this a lot. In my personal life, I’m trying to navigate what it looks like to do life with people. To be sharpened by people. To be sharpened into the woman God wants me to be for Him and eventually, into the wife that I will one day be to a husband. In my professional life, I am always seeking to know the greater purpose to each task I am doing. I am also considering pursuing a seminary degree. 

But you know what I’m figuring out? God doesn’t want me to be satisfied by any of those things. I can’t derive my meaning from people, a job, extracurricular pursuits, because none of it will fill me up.

I’m trying to, though. I’m trying to find meaning and satisfaction in those things just because I think that is what we’ve trained ourselves to do. And God is testing me on it. Big time. And it has led to lots of tears, some agitated basketball playing in the backyard, some intense journaling. Once I found myself arguing with God, out loud, at a public park and then when I realized I was talking out loud, I turned around to see if anyone heard me.

A friend sent me a verse from Philippians the other day. I agree that it is a lesson that God is trying to teach me, but I’m really struggling to be able to honestly say this. Check it out:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 

-Philippians 4:11-12

My biggest issue with this is that I too often try to derive my contentment from circumstances. I wish I knew what I was here for. I wish I knew what God wants me to do while I’m here on earth. But I understand that figuring it out is a process and that God walks with us in this process and reminds us that He is enough, regardless of the pain, emptiness, loss, and loneliness that life allows.

It’s an uphill battle. How do I fight complacency with my day-to-day circumstances? How do I tame the restless spirit within that always wants to move on to the next thing? How do I learn satisfaction even when life isn’t that exciting?

There is beauty in the ordinary. God reminded me of that last night in a sweet way that spoke to me in a very personal way. Thank you for that, Father.

I approach this subject with a sense of inadequacy, helplessness, sorrow, hope, and surrender. Teach me, Lord. Open my eyes to see what you have for me.

Because as you teach us in the following verse in that passage,

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

-Philippians 4:12

To God be the glory.

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