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Learning To Be Content

God has been speaking to me this week about being content as I face some difficult circumstances that I am trusting God to take us through. Being content in the way the Bible describes this quality will result in an attitude of gratitude that is unhindered by outward circumstances.

We live in a society that focuses on accumulation and consumption. But God’s Word teaches a different lifestyle, one in which we free ourselves from the world’s insatiable desire for more and learn to be mentally and emotionally satisfied with things as they are.

The Greek word arkeo which is used in most of the New Testament references to contentment, goes a step further than the English definition of being satisfied and not wanting more. According to Vine’s Complete Expository of Old and New Testament Words, “arkeo primarily signifies to be sufficient, to be possessed of sufficient strength, to be strong, to be enough for a thing.” Contentment starts with understanding that in Christ Jesus we have sufficient strength to walk in contentment through whatever circumstances God allows to touch our lives.

Rob Kuban, author of the book Christ-Centered Contentment, sees contentment as “the currency of God’s economy and God’s people.” Biblical contentment, Kuban says, is a commitment to choose Christ over consumption.

“The Bible calls us to allow our convictions, not our circumstances, to govern our sense of contentment. True, biblical contentment is a conviction that Christ’s power, purpose and provision is sufficient for every circumstance. We are to learn how to walk through all kinds of adversity believing in and experiencing Christ’s sufficiency. We have to choose to rest on God’s good promises despite what may be going on in our lives.”

CONTENTMENT IS CENTERED IN GOD’S PRESENCE

“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.” (Heb. 13:5)

CONTENTMENT IS EQUALLY ATTAINABLE IN ABUNDANCE AND IN NEED

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

CONTENTMENT IS POSSIBLE IN EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” …Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

I love this poetic description by American author, speaker, and pastor John Maxwell, which gives a clear picture of the lifestyle of contentment to which the Lord is calling us to walk, in contrast to the life of one who lives in discontentment.

“The contented man looks beyond his circumstances and sees a better day; the discontented man looks at his circumstances and sees no other way.

The contented man understands the purpose for which he was born; the discontented man looks at other’s success with a face that is filled with scorn.

The contented man has surrendered to a purpose that demands his best; the discontented man has selfishly hoarded much and grasping for more, will not rest.

The contented man has placed his values on things which will forever last; the discontented man has placed his values on things which will soon be past.

The contented man is anchored to clear goals and is hardly ever swayed; the discontented man has no goals that anchor him and is many times dismayed.

The contented man counts his blessings and names them one by one; the discontented man counts other’s blessings and thinks he has no fun.”

I’ve spent long enough living in discontentment. According to Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-13, we can learn to be content in the midst of circumstances that are not those we would have chosen. Our part is to make that choice, God’s part to enable us to walk it out by His power. I know it’s time for me to make that choice. How about you? With you join me in a commitment to learn to walk in contentment in spite of the challenges you are currently walking through?

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A Martha Becoming A Mary

Today, I am pleased to share a guest post with you from a new friend who is a member of God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness, a Christian support, encouragement, Bible study and prayer group that I am privileged to help lead.

Deb Peabody describes herself as “a daughter of the King, wife, mom and Nana to the six most adorable grandkids.” While she has chronic illnesses, her desire is to live as a joyful, chosen, holy, blessed, redeemed and adopted daughter of God with a desire to glorify Him in the life He has ordained for her. She blogs at https://joyfulrefuge.wordpress.com/

A few weeks ago, I did a post on our God-Living Girls page about finding God’s purposes in the pain. Deb shared the following:

“I know God has conformed me more into the image of his Son through my chronic illnesses and have grown in ways I never would have before. Before such a Martha hostess with the mostest go, go, go sunrise to Way past sunset. Now I am learning to be more a Mary at his feet, I have learned greater dependency in God, I have experienced His character and know even in hard times He is faithful, Sovereign, wise and good whether or not I understand why. I rely so much more on Him and His Word rather than doing it all myself in my own strength. I have learned joy and gratitude in spite of hard circumstances.”

This caught both my interest and the interest of several of the ladies in our group, and I asked Deb if she would be willing to write a blog post on what God has done in her life in the area from changing her from a Martha to a Mary. This article is the answer to that request. Enjoy.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,

42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

Before chronic illnesses slowed me down, my hubby called me the “Energizer Bunny” because I kept going and going and going. I was also very much a Martha go, go, go and do, do, do, the hostess with the mostest, involved in many church activities, walking, going to the gym, swimming, gardening, hosting smaller and all church events at our home that I also made sure were perfectly decorated.

In my Martha state, I was constantly fussing about how everything was done and worrying about the impressions I made on people. I spent time in the Word to prepare for Bible studies I attended to make sure I was more prepared and excelling more than others attending. I was forever concerned about what people thought of me, wanting to make the right impression with my looks, my actions, my words and my abilities. Life was frantic, distracted, fear filled and frenzied much more often than it was peaceful, focused, relaxed and faith filled.

My life suddenly changed in 2009. That November I fell while photographing fall leaves when I stepped into a pothole concealed by colorful autumn leaves. I ended up needing eleven stitches on my split open knee. After one dose of sulfa antibiotics I landed in ER with my first anaphylactic reaction. Next thing I knew I was reacting to all sorts of things I had previously tolerated. Fragrances, chemicals, cleaners, toothpastes and many foods suddenly were no longer tolerated. I began feeling like the girl in the bubble. After shuffling from doctors over the next few years received multiple diagnosis including chronic blood cancer, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome(MVAS) and a connective tissue disorder called Ehler Danlos.

As my symptoms increased and my energy ebbed, I really began seeking God, crying out to Him for answers and asking Him to show me how to live in this new normal. It was a really hard season of fading health, numerous unknowns and lack of strength to do all I did before. God met me through time in His Word and in prayer. Many sleepless nights due to insomnia, induced by high doses of steroids, were spent studying His Word and in prayer.

I began to desire to truly know God and His character. My dear hubby was faithful to often remind me that God has sovereignly ordained us to be together and that we will walk together as a couple through whatever He sovereignly allowed in our lives, including chronic illness, to glorify our God.

In this season, I began learning more and more about God’s character. I began to grasp He was sovereign, holy, faithful, wise, just and good no matter what my circumstances happened to be. God began to help me memorize scriptures and enabled me to apply them to my life. This really strengthened my walk and grew my love for Him. As I spent more time at His feet, He began transforming me from an ultra Martha to a bit of a Mary. During this time of unknown yet failing health, He revealed to me He is most concerned about my eternal good and my being conformed to the image of His Son.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – Romans 8:28-29

God met me in amazing ways through examples in family members and friends as well as in His word and prayer. One friend greatly impacted me fairly early in my chronic illness walk, as she and her hubby sat in our home crying tears of joy at all the many ways God has met them and blessed them as she went through surgery, chemo and radiation for breast cancer. That same spring I read two books that greatly impacted me One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Between my friends examples, personal Bible studies and my reading I saw the choice before me. I then purposed in March 2011 and asked God to enable me, regardless of my circumstances, to be a woman of joy and gratitude that ever sits at His feet. I am so grateful for the most part God has answered this request. At the time I did not think of it changing me into more of a Mary, but this was one result of that answered prayer.

I am thankful I can trust in His faithfulness and goodness and to know His plans are for my eternal best and realize our earthly life is just a blip in eternity. I honestly believe if God had not slowed me down with various chronic illnesses, I would still be the Energizer Bunny version of a Martha. While lack of energy and symptoms may prevent me from doing many things, most days I can sit at His precious feet, be fed by His Word and pray as the Holy Spirit directs. I am at peace, have joy and gratitude, laugh easily and am so much more relaxed. I am now grateful for any help and even if not done “my way” to accomplish the task as it truly no longer matters.

Our marriage is better than ever and we enjoy each other, appreciate each other and love each other more than before. Laughter is frequent and we joke about the plot twists in our life. Now when we have guests over the focus is how to bless them and make them feel our home is a safe, loving haven where before my focus was on how to impress. Sometimes my house is a bit messy and God has even used that to make people feel comfortable and makes me seem more approachable.

There are days when I take my eyes off of my precious Savior and put them on me and my circumstances. There are days I must fight for joy and gratitude. I have purposed on those days to think of at least three things I am grateful for and either say them aloud or write them down. That seems to redirect my gaze back to Him, the lover of my soul, the One who sustains me and fills me with His joy, peace and hope.

While I would love to be healed, my prayer is that if God allowed it, I would not forget His using chronic illness to slow me down to transform me into much more of a Mary. The joy, peace, laughter, confidence and freedom from fears I now have from my Lord are of much greater value to me than perfect health. My devotion to my Jesus, my gratitude, my love for the gospel of grace, my compassion for the sufferings of others, love of His Word and prayer have all grown immensely as a result of chronic illness. I can say as the Psalmist said:

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

I would honestly choose to be a chronically ill Mary any day over going back to my former healthy but fearful frantic Martha state. May His transforming grace continually be at work in all of us!

Blessings,

Deb

Being Conduits of God’s Compassion and Comfort

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3,4 NIV

When you are in pain – physically, emotionally or mentally – what do you want most of all? Does you heart long for someone to feel sorry for you, pity you because of what you’re going through? Or is your desire for someone to walk beside you and share your burden?

When I’m hurting, what I want most of all is to have a friend say, “I love you. What can I do to help?” If that’s how you feel too, then you have a clear picture of what the above Scripture means when it says our Heavenly Father is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.

The Father of Compassion

Two of my favorite Old Testament references about the Lord’s compassion help us to get a clearer picture of this attribute of God. They compare God’s compassion to that of a father and mother toward their biological children.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” Psalms‬ ‭103:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

A loving father shows compassion for his children by walking beside them as they walk through trouble, by reminding them how much they are loved.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah‬ ‭49:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And for those of us who are mothers, lacking compassion for our own young children seems like an almost unforgivable sin.

God’s compassion is freely given to His children, and the only thing that can thwart it is our continued disobedience.

“For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Lamentations‬ ‭3:31-33‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The God of All Comfort

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” Psalms‬ ‭119:50‬ ‭ESV

Life in this world is filled with trials, but whatever problem you may be facing today, you can be assured our Heavenly Father knows the situation and is eager to provide comfort in the midst of it. And one way He comforts us is by reminding us of the promises of His Word.

Another source of comfort in the midst of trouble is knowing and trusting in the attributes of God’s character. For example, reflecting on His steadfast love brings us comfort.

“Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.” Psalms‬ ‭119:76‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In His mercy and love, God is eager to provide comfort to His children in any and all circumstances. Whatever the trial we face, our Heavenly Father knows the situation and offers comfort as needed. The fact that He is the God of all comfort teaches that all comfort ultimately comes from Him. He is our source of peace and happiness and blessing, regardless of what is happening around us.

Experiencing God’s compassion and comfort should be our motivation to show compassion and give comfort to others who are hurting. As I read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, the word conduit comes to mind. A conduit is simply a channel through which something is conveyed, in this case the compassion and comfort of the Lord.

God is not asking us to produce compassion and comfort, simply to be a channel for carrying these qualities to those around us who are hurting so that a need can be met. What is actually being transmitted? The compassion and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

This week, reflect on the times you have experienced compassion and comfort from the Lord. And choose to be a conduit of His compassion and comfort to those you are around who are hurting.

A New Month, A New Topical Bible Reading Plan

For a couple years, I have been using the monthly topical Bible reading plans published by Rachel Wojo, and this month’s plan Perfect Peace: Planting My Eyes on Jesus is especially appropriate to where I’ve been walking in recent months. My desire is to do at least one blog post per week during June sharing some of the things I’m learning from this study. If anyone is interested in doing this study with me, here is Rachel’s June Bible reading plan.

In the midst of a time of trying to find answers to explain recent irregularities in my blood tests, walking in God’s peace has been a challenge. It’s been a daily battle not to give in to fear. Last July and again in February of this year, my alkaline phosphatase levels have been elevated. My doctor suspected this was due to a new bone problem, so she ordered a full body bone scan with contrast. The test revealed no new bone disease that would explain the lab results.

Then, she felt the next most probable problem was disease or obstruction in the liver or pancreas. So I had a barium and IV contrast CT-scan done of my liver and pancreas done last Friday. This was especially scary, because my doctor had mentioned the possibility of cancer. But again, I was given a clear report of health from this test. This was a huge relief, but at this point we still do not know what is behind the elevated levels.

Next Friday, I’ll be taking the next step in the diagnostic process, an appointment with my gastroenterologist to discuss the results of the CT-scan in more detail and to schedule a colonoscopy. And the following Friday, I’m scheduled for a bone density test, which my doctor said is due and should be done to rule out the one other possible area of trouble with my bones.

Unlike most of the health issues I’ve faced in the past, this new one isn’t causing any outward problems. But there has been a battle – a spiritual battle in my mind against fear. So this month’s topical study on the peace we find in God’s presence is especially fitting.

Day 1: Psalm 29:1-11 (I’m using ESV throughout this study unless otherwise noted)

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Psalms‬ ‭29:3-4

‭‭The voice of the Lord – and His very presence – is above the waters that threaten our lives. This reminds me of the first part of Isaiah 43:2.

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…”

Psalm 29 ends with these words. They are a great reminder that God is still on His throne, that He has been and continues to be in charge.

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” Psalm ‭29:10-11‬ ‭

Father, today I remind myself that these latest health problems I’m facing haven’t taken You by surprise. You are above these choppy waters I’m going through, still reigning on Your throne of grace and love. Thank You for a doctor who won’t let this go until she rules out all of the major issues that could be causing this irregularity in my blood work. Thank You that the two most likely and most serious problems have now been ruled out. Continue to teach me how to take hold of Your peace and rest in You as I walk through this storm in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Being Thankful Is a Choice

Matthew Henry, the eighteenth-century Puritan preacher and Bible scholar whose commentary is still widely used today, told a story of a time when he was attacked and his wallet taken. Knowing that it was his duty to give thanks in everything, he meditated on this incident and recorded the following in his diary:

“Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

God calls us to give thanks in every situation we face, and in these words Matthew Henry was obeying this command. The “attitude of gratitude” is a clear command and expectation of God. Intentional gratitude causes use to see even the hardest of circumstances from a God-centered perspective.

There are several benefits of expressing gratefulness.

  • It pleases the Lord, who has instructed us to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • It brings us closer to God. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!”
  • It changes our perspective of what we are walking through.
  • It motivates us to look for God’s purpose in our circumstance.
  • It is the path that leads to joy and peace.

Are you facing one or more turbulent, unsettled situations in your life? Take time today to practice intentional gratitude. Following Matthew Henry’s example, find at least three things you can choose to give thanks to God for in the midst of your circumstances.

Thanking God in the Midst of Uncertainty

Last Friday, I had an unusually healthy day. I woke up feeling well rested and with very little pain. After spending some time reading my Bible, my husband and I left for what I expected to be a routine doctor’s appointment.

At my last appointment a month earlier, my doctor had stopped both of my high blood pressure meds, after losing a few pounds had put my blood pressure in the ideal range. Today’s appointment was to see how I was doing after a month off these meds and to go over the results of a full body bone scan she had ordered when recent blood work had shown some abnormalities which she thought were related to my bone health. I received a great report in both of these areas. My blood pressure was still in the ideal range and the bone scan ruled out the bone problems she was most concerned about.

After she went over the positive results, my doctor asked and I answered a long list of questions concerning my health. Yes, I had been purposely trying to lose weight. No, I wasn’t having any digestion problems. No, I wasn’t having a problem with bloating or abdominal pain. No unusual weakness or fatigue.

In essence, my doctor was trying to rule out all the things that could have caused the abnormality in my blood work, which she now told me was even worse with the last lab results. She ordered new blood work and talked about some possibilities of what might be going on. Basically, she had ruled out just about everything that would explain the worsening results except for major problems with my liver or pancreas, mentioning cancer as one of the very real possibilities.

I came home that day suddenly facing a future filled with unknowns. Now that I have the results of last Friday’s blood work, which didn’t show any improvement, I know the next steps, a CT-scan of my liver and pancreas and a bone density test, both scheduled for next Friday. I’m taking the steps medically that seem wise at this point. But I’m placing even greater attention on taking what I’m facing to God’s throne of grace, asking for His mercy and grace in my time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

This past week, I’ve been doing lots of praying, asking God to help me see this situation from His perspective. And God reminded me that this situation was out of my control – but it wasn’t beyond His control. Nothing could touch my life without His allowing it, and anything He allows is for my good and His glory. I heard, “Don’t be afraid. Trust Me.”

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Last week, my blog post was on giving God thanks in everything we face, and I’ve been trying to take my own advice this week. How do you give thanks for a new health crisis? For a season filled with unknowns? It all comes down to truly knowing the God we serve. As Kay Arthur said, “God is in control, and therefore in EVERYTHING I can give thanks – not because of the situation but because of the One who directs and rules over it.

One of my favorite ways to give thanks in the midst of uncertainty is by writing Scripture-based prayers of gratefulness to God for who He is. The following passage was in my scheduled Bible reading for Wednesday, May 16 (the day I was writing the first part of this article, for a Thankful Thursday post with God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness), and it was a perfect Scripture to turn into a prayer of gratefulness.

Thank You, Lord, that You are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you will answer me. (Psalms 86:5-7 ESV)

This morning, as I began my regular quiet time by reading today’s devotional in Praying God’s Word Day By Day, by Beth Moore, the two-fold message I’ve been reflecting on all week was again repeated: This situation is under God’s control, and my focus right now needs to be on God’s character, especially on His steadfast love for me.  Beth’s Scripture prayer based on Psalms 116:15 was,

“Lord, sometimes my only answer will be that You are sovereign… One day I will have all the answers. But until then, I must trust that You have power and dominion over all things and that You know best. Help me to believe this even when I don’t feel it.”

And the other half of her message, based on Psalms 119:76-77, 81 was,

“May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant. Let Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight. My soul faints with longing for Your salvation, but I have put my hope in Your Word.”

Reading this led me to a shift in my Bible study plan for the day, as I did a topical study on God’s steadfast love. Here are a few of the verses that encouraged me this morning (all verses in ESV):

  • Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.” 3‭‭Psalms‬ ‭6:4‬
  • But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”‭‭ Psalms‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭
  • All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.”‭‭ Psalms‬ ‭25:10‬ ‭
  • Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭33:18‬ ‭
  • But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.” Psalms‬ ‭59:16-17‬ ‭‬‬

And as the last verse above encouraged me to do, I closed my quiet time by singing aloud of God’s steadfast love, using several songs including this one.

Learning to RALLY

Life with chronic illness – or any of a variety of the many trials we face as a part of life on this fallen earth – can be difficult. And poor choices that open a door to the enemy make it even harder.

I’m currently doing a study of Rally: A Personal Growth Bible Study, written by Barb Raveling, with a Facebook group I’m a part of. I highly recommend this book.

“Do you ever wish you could escape your problems? Just jump on a ship and sail across the ocean?” If your answer to this question is yes, this study may be just what you’re looking for.

From the back cover of the book:

“The Bible tells us to count it all joy when we encounter trials, but that’s hard to do. It’s easier when we remember that trials have the potential to help us grow. Unfortunately, we’re often so busy stressing and obsessing that we miss out on growing.”

The focus of this Scripture based study is on learning to “slow down, take a deep breath, and spend some time visiting with God about your current struggles.” Barb gives five steps God’s Word teaches us, which form the acronym RALLY.

R – Renew your mind.

A – Ask Him for help and accept what you need to accept.

L – Let go of your have-to-haves.

L – Let go of “if only” and make a plan.

Y – Yay God! Thank Him in all situations.