By Karen Whiting
The day before the wedding my mentally handicapped brother had lost his little job of waiting on tables at a school cafeteria. Although social workers could easily place him in a new position, mom remained discontented and focused on that problem the entire day. She made the mistake of magnifying one problem, so that it robbed her of joy on such a happy occasion. Many people let one problem override all the blessings in their lives. It steals their contentment. They forget to trust their anxieties to God and rejoice in the blessings he has given them. Some people fixate on something until it changes their personality and fills them with negative emotions that spill out in sin. Herodias, in Matthew 14, is an example of a person whose discontent led to a life of sin. She had a husband but chose the sin of adultery. She must have been discontent with her husband. She felt more discontent at hearing John the Baptist speak of repentance and point out her sin. That led to her plotting the murder of John the Baptist. She trampled over people and even used her beautiful daughter to get her way. She ignored John's calls to repent, the one action that would have healed her heart and given her joy. Her bad choice snowballed into disaster for many.
In contrast, Paul spoke about contentment, in Philippians four, and said that he had learned to be content in prosperous circumstances and impoverished situations. His circumstances could not rob him of his joy or peace. It is very seldom that every detail in life is perfect because we live in a fallen world, but we can make choices that help us remain content despite our circumstances.
My mother finally discovered how to be content after a stroke left her partially paralyzed. She started to listen as we expressed gratitude for her life and what she could still do. When she complained that she could no longer do crafts, I mentioned that with her good hand she could write letters, a lost art, to grandchildren away at college and to her friends. She struggled to use a walker and spent much of her time in a wheelchair, but she spent time thanking God for her blessings of family, the patient care-giving of my father, the use of one hand, and a new ministry of writing letters of encouragement to family and friends. She realized that joy came as she filled her life with multiple streams of contentment.
Viewing all the different blessings in life is like seeing many streams that flow into an ocean or a lake. If one stream dries up, others keep flowing. One stream of contentment we can create is to do something for others. It gives us purpose. List your abilities and talents and consider ways to use them to bless others. God is a giver of blessings. We learn in James 1:16-17, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. Blessings from God may be in the form of friends, financial security, a home, health, pets, clothing, and food. The meeting of our basic needs is a gift. Each one of these can become a stream filled with blessings. So let the abundance of gratitude for blessings flow into your heart. Consider each aspect of life as a different stream. There is always one stream that is bubbling up with blessings to fill your life with contentment.
In Philippians four, Paul provides wisdom regarding contentment: he urges people to live in harmony, rejoice in the Lord, and give anxieties to God in prayer. He encourages people to let their minds dwell on positive thoughts, stating that we should think about what is true, lovely, honorable, pure, true, and anything excellent. Positive thoughts help our emotions flow in an optimistic direction. To do this, list the blessings in each stream of life.
Spiritual streams include a relationship with Jesus, prayer, church family, Christian music, Bible study, and church fellowship.
Relational streams include family, friends, faith friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and new people we meet.
Blessings in daily life include past memories, pleasant thoughts, encouraging words, compliments, accomplishments, laughter, and smiles.
In creating the world, God also created beauty to provide natural streams of contentment filled with beautiful sunsets and sunrises, wonders of nature, blossoms, gentle breezes, showers that cause the earth to spring forth in color, and creatures that scurry and fly about.
After listing the positives, praise God for each one. Thank God for each friend and every little circumstance that is going well. Then list past prayer requests that God answered. Thank God again for each response.
Then add any new prayer needs. It's easier to trust God and give away worries when you recall the past times when God met your needs.
To prevent the flow of blessings from drying up, of being blocked as a dam blocks a river's flow, spend time nurturing the streams. Paul's contentment continued in prison and despite hardships. He nurtured his relationships. He continually prayed and wrote letters. He sent greetings to friends and encouraged his companions and fellow-workers with praise. Paul's later years stood in stark contrast to the discontented man who watched alone, as his soldiers stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58-8:3). They placed Stephen's cloak at Paul's feet. It's a lonely image of someone isolated from others. He made threats from the anger of discontentment and asked others to write letters for him, letters to imprison Christians. As a Christian, he viewed the blessings in life as gifts from God and knew the joy of friendships.
Paul developed a network of friends everywhere he traveled. And he encouraged his friends to live in harmony and stay focused on their relationship with Jesus. Paul's letters to Timothy urge Timothy to continue his relationship with God, to visit him, and to fill his life with loving actions.
Paul's wise words offer ways to keep the streams flowing. First, continue in your relationship with God. Do not let blockage occur from sin. His letters encourage people to keep the relationship with God right and strong. He sang songs in jail and praised God in the midst of trials Secondly, work at relationships. Keep in touch with people, invite them to visit, praise them and express gratitude for their friendship. Paul generated streams in lives of others. Paul had discovered the truth of Jesus' words in John 7:38, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.
My mother suffered from cancer in the final months of her life. When she called to say she had cancer I asked, "Mom, are you ready to go home to the Lord?" She said, " Yes." I could hear joy in her voice in spite of pain that filled her body. My children put together little care packages and wrapped up a tiny treasure to open each day. They made little crafts, wrote cards, wrapped photos, and taped messages. She smiled at each little gift. She had something positive to look forward to each day. My father, her husband of fifty years, read Scriptures at her request. She nurtured the streams.
My mentally handicapped brother had to be coaxed to visit her. He didn't think mom would know him because she was so near death. As he entered the room I asked, "Mom, do you know who is here." She almost yelled, something very difficult for her to do and said, "Johnny. I hear Johnny." That melted Johnny's heart and he stayed by her side for the afternoon, holding a cup and straw for her to sip water. She thanked him. She had learned to work at the relationships even when it became most difficult.
Until her final hours my mother did not feel pain. As she passed on to heaven, my dad and some siblings surrounded her. My mother had learned an important truth: streams of contentment can be a powerful force to ease pain, change our perspective, and create peace in our hearts.
About the Author:
A creative person with creative solutions- that's Karen Whiting! She has a heart for busy women and desires to help them free up time for what God has truly called them to do in relationships and ministry. She challenges listeners to discover ways to connect, serve, and treasure one another.
Karen found time to follow God's call to write even while she and husband, Jim moved around the US and raised their five children. They currently live on Maryland's eastern shore and are new grandparents.
An author of ten books for women, families and children, Karen writes to creatively strengthen families. Her articles have appeared in dozens of magazines, including Focus on the Family, Today's Christian Woman, Christian Parenting Today, and Parent Life. Karen has been named Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in the World, and Professional Speakers Network member of the year award. Karen has been a guest on numerous radio shows and hosted the educational television series Puppets on Parade. With humor and inspiration, Karen loves to encourage women to nurture their relationships and family life.
Find out more about Karen at her website http://www.karenwhiting.com/
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