Mandy Saeler WRITES:
What do our heavy hearts prove but that other things are sweeter to us than His will … ?
— H.E. Manning
A godly older man I respect once remarked, “Anything is what you make of it.” Since first hearing those words, I’ve thought about them many times over, pondering the token of wisdom he encapsulated in that expression.
Whether in palace courts or a pauper’s cottage, we can often reel with discontentment, listing the imperfections and impracticalities of any circumstance. It’s likely that we could all imagine at least a handful of ways that our lives could be made better, happier, easier, or more fitting to our personal tastes. But the reality is that the responsibility of what is made of the situation ... is up to us. After all, the grass is greenest where we water it.
From what you shared, it sounds like you are on the side of the fence where the grass comes up mingled with weeds and thistles, while the rolling hills across the way gleam with a fine shade of emerald in the morning sun…
I’ve had my idealistic “if only…” moments too.
In times when I’ve struggled with feelings of discontentment over my own circumstances, it has helped me to ask the question, What is it that I really want? If I answer that question with straightforward honesty, I often come to the conclusion that I am wanting difficulties removed from my life — I want comfort, ease, and ultimately, what I think will make me “happy” in that moment. In essence, I want weed-killer to fall from the heavenlies on my side of the fence, eternally obliterating the weeds and thistles, and thus mirroring the enchanting shade of emerald from the rolling hills over yonder. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
The desires for comfort, peace, and happiness are true for almost all of us — we naturally crave these things. For example, given the ability to choose, most of us would opt for cars that never break down, finances that never falter, and words like “root canal” to never reach our ears. But, in all reality, cars do deteriorate, finances are merely an earthly means, and teeth are but a part of these dust-made frames. The truth is that comfort, peace, and happiness were never meant to be afforded to us through our earthly circumstances — but through our spiritual exchange and union with Jesus Christ. When we lose sight of that reality and our grip upon His truth weakens, we can quickly fall prey to the circumstantial contentment myth where the grass is less-green where you are, and always greener somewhere else.
May I encourage you, dear reader, with a simple truth? Life unfolds in unexpected ways sometimes. And when it does, although our circumstances may be beyond our ability to control — our heart-attitude is within our control. And it is our heart — and all that springs out of it (our thoughts, words, and actions) — that we are responsible for before the Lord.
We can wish a thousand times over that things were “different” … but would “different” really satisfy a discontent heart? Or would a discontent heart simply find a new set of ideals and desires in those "different" circumstances? (A heart riddled with discontentment is a clever one — please don’t be fooled into believing that different circumstances are the remedy.) While there may be aspects of your situation that do need change — I would encourage you to realign the posture of your heart with His truth before setting out to make those practical changes. Seeking Him first will always prove to be our best course of action.
Throughout seasons when I’ve felt emotionally clouded, one practical way I’ve sought clarity and perspective has been through the straightforward, biblical counsel from an older woman I respect and admire: Elisabeth Elliot. Each time I press “play” to listen to one of her old teachings, I know that I am not in for an ear-tickling, heart-warming teatime chat.* Instead, I know that this faithful older woman will challenge me, once again, with the age-old, always-timely truths of the Gospel. Deny yourself … Lay down your rights … Do you really want the will of God in your life? … Are you willing to walk just as He walked?
Time and time again, the truth-filled words of this no-nonsense New England woman have pointed me to the path that my Savior walked … the path of surrender, self-denial, and death to self. And I’ve been reminded that the remedy for my inner ailments (including discontentment) are found in denying myself and surrendering to God’s ways. As I am continually faced with new opportunities to “die to self,” I find it encouraging and even joyous to remember that in each chance to die, there is also a gateway to fuller life in Christ … one step of obedience at a time.
And it is the same for you, dear reader — each step of obedience is a step closer to Him.
With a quiet heart of trust, may these words be true of us:
Receive every inward and outward trouble, every disappointment, pain, uneasiness, temptation, darkness, and desolation, with both your hands, as a true opportunity and blessed occasion of dying to self, and entering into a fuller fellowship with your self-denying, suffering Savior. Look at no inward or outward trouble in any other view; reject every other thought about it; and then every kind of trial and distress will become the blessed day of your prosperity. That state is best, which exercises the highest faith in, and fullest resignation to God.
— William Law
If the grass is greenest where we water it, may we be found watering the grass here in the pasture where our Shepherd has led us … and may it be greenest at His feet.
...You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4 ESV
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