The things we expect to bring contentment often don’t, or not for long. But if you have Jesus, you have everything you need.
Cineas was an ancient Greek politician and a friend of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, considered one of the greatest generals in antiquity. After spending decades securing his own possessions, it was inevitable that the king would turn his attention toward the new powers of Rome and Carthage, to the west of Greece.
The story goes that Cineas tried to dissuade Pyrrhus from sailing to Italy and urged him to be satisfied with the possessions he already had. “Should the gods permit us to overcome them,” Cineas asked, “how will we profit from our victory?”
I had a solo and five or six ensemble/quartet pieces to practice, a music exam coming up, and a speech (partly in the local Xhosa dialect) to prepare for. And not only that, but I hadn’t received the speech’s text from the organizers, or the music for which I was supposed to write a harmony!
I don’t like being stressed, and I don’t normally get that stressed, but this time was different. I kept thinking about what I had to do, mentally rearranging it over and over. This actually led to more stress and worry, as the pieces of the alarmingly intricate puzzle would float out of place in my head as soon as I got them in order.
Christian joy is intimately connected to faith, hope, and gratefulness. It’s about taking a long-range view of life that is based on faith in God, trust in what He has told us through Scripture, and the knowledge that our earthly life is only the beginning phase of our eternal relationship with Him.
I sat quietly, listening to the birds, drinking a cup of tea, feeling the rays of sunshine on my face and I felt perfect peace. I wasn’t letting my mind run over things that had happened. I wasn’t making mental lists and thinking about what I was going to do. I wasn’t feeling remorseful. I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t even trying hard to shut down my mind. I just soaked in the moment and enjoyed the feeling of God’s presence. It made me think about how much time I spend in the past and the future, and how rarely I’m fully engaged in the present moment.
I recently stumbled upon a fascinating book in a used book store. The premise of The Secret Life of Water, by Masaru Emoto, is that water reflects the positive or negative force that it comes in contact with. The author exposed distilled water to various influences with speech, music, photographs, and writing. He then froze the water and photographed the crystals. The photographs suggest that positive influences such as prayers, uplifting music, and positive speech caused the water to form beautiful crystals, while negative influences caused the water to not crystallize at all or form ugly patterns.
Paul says in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” In Proverbs we read that “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.”1 Nonetheless, during moments when life gets complicated and confusing, I wonder what might have happened if things had turned out just a little different, and I wish I could go back and do them over.
I’ve kept a journal of some kind since my preteen years. At the beginning of this year, I decided that I would not only record things of obvious significance when they occurred, but I would write at least a line or two every single day, whether or not anything apparently noteworthy took place. I’m happy to say I’m well on track to finish strong.
I needed to urgently get in touch with a woman whose address I didn’t have, and every part of my being seemed to throb with anxiety. I felt as though I would fly to pieces if I didn’t get some word to her. As I prayed about what to do next, suddenly a paraphrase of Scripture came to me. Just be still. Get quiet and know that I am God.
Several months after our third child was born, I found myself struggling to pull out of a “post-birth slump.” My daily routine was blurring into a continuum of chores and deadlines that I felt weren’t leading me anywhere, not to mention a newborn in constant demand of my care. My mind felt constantly tired, and my heart was heavy. I couldn’t identify what was making me feel down.
Everyone has an idea of what peace and contentment look like to them. I think of green rolling hills and a cottage in the woods with a beautiful garden. I think of spending evenings on the front porch swing watching the sun set, sharing a conversation with friends and family. I think of a healthy balance in our savings account. In my “happy world,” my kids are all leading productive, satisfying lives and will grow up to start happy, healthy families, and all my loved ones are flourishing. That sounds peaceful. That sounds like a good life, and I just know I would be the very model of contentment!