“No one is discontented who employs and enjoys to the utmost what he has.” Mattie D Babcock
Before church one Sunday, I watched a toddler race in circles around the rows of chairs in the school gym that served as our sanctuary. The little one was delighted in her newfound mode of locomotion, having only recently learned how to run. With squeals and giggles, dancing eyes, and waving hands, she playfully taunted her mother, just keeping out of arms reach, hoping that her mother might give chase. No such luck. The tot’s mother merely watched from afar, making sure her daughter was safe. As soon as worship began, the toddler was content to play with her toys as she sat with other toddlers at the back of the gym. That contentment soon gave way to wriggly anticipation as she spotted the worship dance team at the front. Her mother selected a child-sized worship flag for her to use and they danced together along the edges of the gym. At the end of the service, the little one was just as energetic and full of life as she was at the beginning of the service.
I don’t have the luxury of drawing from the endless amounts of energy a healthy toddler pulls from. I must budget my physical strength, in the same way that I budget my finances, I have learned to budget my emotional energy. Although I am not in the regular workforce, I schedule my day for times of exercise, rest, simple meal preparation, devotional writing, leisure, and household chores. Although I dust and tidy up my apartment, cook simple meals, and wash my dishes, I leave the more substantial work to my cleaning woman.
I have learned to pause a conversation, if I sense it will be a lengthy one and I am standing, to ensure I can focus on the discussion at hand. I ask if we can find a seat somewhere or move so I can lean against a wall. I no longer have the physical stamina to listen with intent and stand without help.
Angst and discontentment drain my physical reserves as well as my emotional reserves. By spending energy on negative emotions, I have nothing left to positively invest in those around me. I find it difficult to enter into the joy and peace that Christ won for me on the cross. If I spend a day ruminating on financial worries, hurt feelings, offences, or situations beyond my control, I am exhausted, and I have nothing to show for my fruitless expenditure of valuable energy at the end of that day.
On the other hand, if I spend my day living from a place of intentional gratitude, no matter how difficult that day might be, I may be physically tired, but I am not spiritually and emotionally depleted. I cannot afford to live in discontentment; the price is too high. Contentment costs me little, and the reward of inner peace with God and man is priceless beyond measure.
Philippians 4:11b-13 -“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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Paul wasn’t just spouting platitudes in the verse above. He walked the walk, he just didn’t talk the talk. Many of the letters Paul wrote were written in dungeons. In 2 Corinthians 11:22-28, Paul speaks of just some of the hardships he endured. Yes, he learned the keys to the truth, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Learning the discipline of living from a foundation of contentment appeared to be one of those keys.
If you find yourself consistently emotionally spent, irritable, and challenging to be around, ask yourself the following questions:
Am I harbouring anger, resentment, unforgiveness, jealousy, and discontentment that are draining my reserves? If so, is it time to set those things aside so I can fully embrace life? Am I paying too high a price? How could I be spending my energy in better ways?
Am I trying to do too much for too many people? Do I need to learn to lean more on Christ and confess to those around me that I cannot do it all?
What does it mean to be content? Is it the same as being resigned to a situation? Is contentment a passive emotion or an intentional emotion?
Ask the Lord for a game plan. Ask Him how you can best manage your emotional and physical resources.
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All Bible verses attributed to the ESV version unless otherwise indicated.
Until Next Week
©2018 Katherine Walden
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