If I could ask God to remove one point of struggle, I wouldn’t have to think long to come up with an answer. There is something in my life that breeds constant struggle.
Maybe you have something to that effect, too. It’s something that I struggled with in different ways in different seasons in my life. No matter how it manifests itself, the root problem is the same. It is something that I thought I would have mastered by this point in my life, but it seems to still show up.
Let me take you back to my earliest recollection of this struggle…
When I was 10 years old, we moved to a new city. I was invited to attend a new friend’s birthday party at a pool. If you aren’t a female you may not completely understand, but girls intuitively know how to be mean from an early age. Go to any preschool and you will be able to point out mean girls. So at ten, this was nothing new. As I played alone on the side of the pool with a float, something happened. It popped and withered away in my hands. And as it flattened so did my spirit as I heard a mean girl laugh and say “Sarah is so fat! She popped the float.” That moment still plays back in my head in slow motion. In that instance, I was devastated and embarrassed. I had the sudden realization of my imperfect body. And in that moment, that thing in me was awakened — discontentment.
That was a pivotal moment in my life — something that shifted my thoughts and direction. From that point on, I worked hard, never satisfied with who God made me to be. Never content to be me.
Long story short, after ten years of struggling with an obsession, I allowed God to work in me. He began to reveal to me the truth of how He saw me and contentment, dare I say satisfaction, followed.
Looking back, one would think that the problem of discontentment was solved, yet as a 36-year-old mother of two young children, I find myself struggling with the same root problem of discontentment. The discontentment looks differently for me now than it did as a teenager. Fast forward from that incident at the pool, and I find myself discontent in my role in life. I’ve often wondered, Did I peak at age 30? Is my career finished? Is God done with me? I had a successful ministry career, traveled as a speaker, and published a book all before I was 30. Then I had kids. Now I’m surrounded in mountains of diapers and cries for help leaving me unable to connect the dots to even form a sentence. Up rises the weed of discontentment.
Paul said in Philippians 4:11, 13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Paul learned to be content in whatever circumstance. How do you learn something? It’s simple. You practice. You continue to practice until you learn it. For my life and yours, you practice contentment. And when you feel like a failure, lean hard on the promise in verse 13 that He wants to be our strength to enable us to do all things — all things in regard to learning to be content. So whether I am discontent with me or my role or my relationships, God will strengthen me to learn or practice contentment.
I have a feeling that I am not the only one who struggles with discontentment.
Maybe you struggle with your identity. You’ve lived under the shadow of someone your entire life or you have longed for your father to recognize the uniqueness of who you are. Maybe you spent four years in college only to realize that what you thought you would do is far from what you want to do. Maybe you feel discouraged because you thought you would be further down the road of success than where you are. Maybe you are in an environment where the people are terrible. Maybe someone has hurt you. Maybe you feel like you ultimately aren’t cut out for the role of wife or mother. There are countless scenarios of discontent.
I believe contentment begins with a shift. It’s not a shift in what we would want it to be. It’s not about our circumstances changing. Contentment is more of a shift in perspective than circumstances.
For me, I wasn’t content when I lost 30 pounds. The circumstances of my body fluctuated. It was when I accepted who God made me to be and shifted my perspective to see what He saw that I found contentment. The same message is true for me today. My circumstances are not changing, however, contentment is found when I view this current role through God’s eyes.
It would be amazing to not struggle in this way, however, I would miss the journey with Him. I would miss the very thing that drives me to His arms. I would miss experiencing what only He can provide, strength. And I would miss the joy of glorifying Him in my present circumstances.