A Case of the “If Only’s”

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  1 Timothy 6:6

Not only are godliness and contentment things that Christ exemplified (and therefore we should strive for), the Apostle Paul tells us that having them are of great gain.  And like all good things, we need to work to receive them.  In Philippians 4:11, Paul tells us that he has learned to be content in all circumstances.

On the same day that Emily over at Chatting at the Sky used her “Tuesdays Unwrapped” to talk about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary (specifically today, by being thankful), I read a chapter from an older book called, “Living on Less and Liking It More.” I understood what the author meant when she said that often we are not quite content, but think that we could be “if only _____________.”  You know that old exercise that keeps us always on the verge of contentment.  I do it all the time.  “My house would be just right if only I had a real dining room.”  “I’d be content with who I am and the way I look if only I had a nicer smile.”  “If only my husband made a few more thousand dollars every year, we would be more comfortable.”  There are times in my life where my list of “if only’s” is so long, I am eons away from contentment.  And then I bully myself with the final “if only”:  “I’d be happier if only I could be more content!”  Right?!  Right!

Well, Paul told us in Philippians that we have to learn how to be content.  For me, that means beating down every “if only” that comes my way and surrendering myself and my life over to God again and again.  It also means practicing the art of gratitude.  Thankfulness.  For the little things, the ordinary.  My daughter turned five this week, so over the weekend we threw a small and simple party at our home.  A few friends, some singing and music, a couple of games, and some food.  My daughter was overjoyed.  She enjoyed this simple day with her friends.  She wasn’t thinking “If only my mom had this party catered.  If only we had a bigger house and I could have had more friends come.  If only we had cooler decorations.”  She was happy and delighted in the moment.

Like so many spiritual disciplines and godly character traits, contentment is something that I will only achieve through practice, focus, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  I read of a woman who keep a daily journal of gratitude.  Every day, no matter how difficult or disappointing the day, she recorded at least one thing that she was thankful for.  Something that revealed our extraordinary God in even ordinary circumstances.  Today I am thankful for relationships that are restored and renewed by God’s grace.  I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for bright sun that warms my face.  I am thankful for answers to prayer.  And yes, I am thankful for two sleepy little girls who went to bed at 6:30pm tonight…..giving me hours to catch up on whatever I need to catch up on.  Like learning how to be content…..  🙂

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