Days after Christmas all our kids’ new toys seem a little less new. You may have even heard, “Man, I wish I had gotten …” or “My friend got what I really wanted and I didn’t!” It doesn’t take long for our appreciation of the gifts we’ve been given to become discontentment. It happens in my life too. The new shirt I’m excited about today becomes the laundry I’m grumbling about tomorrow.
Different from jealousy, discontentment is often an ongoing issue. You may be discontent about a certain circumstance in your life (a low-paying job, a home that doesn’t meet your expectations, extended family members who constantly take from you and never give), or you may be one who struggles with discontentment all the time. No matter who you meet, what they have or the life they lead seems better than yours.
The question have to ask ourselves is this—how is my reaction in this circumstance different from a non-believer’s reaction. How does my faith in God make a difference in my life when it comes to discontentment? Does someone know I’m a Christian by my joy?
Near the end of the Old Testament, we meet Habakkuk, a prophet during a time in Israel’s history when they had a lot to be discontent about. They were suffering at the hands of wicked nations as a result of their sin. They had heard God did mighty acts on their behalf, but they couldn’t see Him in their current circumstances. At the end of chapter 3, Habakkuk shares his frustration and hope:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (3:17-18)
The last verse is my favorite, “I will take joy.” Joy doesn’t always come easily. Some days we have to take it. Fight for it. Make it ours.
But how do we do that?
We accept that our circumstances are from God and therefore for our good. It’s ok to ask God to change our circumstances, but we also ask Him to use those circumstances to fulfill His purpose for us and ask for the strength to glorify Him in them.
This isn’t just a theory for me. I have to put it into practice every day.
“Bye James! Have a good day at school. I love you.”
“Love you. See you morning.”
“No, not ‘see you in the morning.’ It’s school time, not bed time.”
“James do you want an apple?”
“No, say ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”
“Yes or no.”
“No James, say ‘yes apple’ or ‘no apple.'”
“Yes or no.”
James is ten-years-old and I’m still changing his diapers, still lining up trains, still watching Blue’s Clues every evening after dinner. In most ways, he’s just like he was when we got his autism diagnosis when he was three.
Some days I grow weary from the same-ness. From teaching the same lessons. From working on the same goals. From hearing the same mistakes. My temptation to grumble and be discontent is strong. When every day feels like the same, I want to cry out like Habakkuk did, “O Lord, how long?” (1:2).
But then God answers me as He answered Habakkuk: look and see, wonder and be astounded. “For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told” (2:5).
Look and see.
James is making progress. He loves school right now and isn’t anxious to be away from me. He’s sleeping through the night. He’s trying new foods. We’re thankful for each new step, and God thankful God reminds me of them when I’m prone to pout.
Wonder and be astounded.
Even if James never progresses beyond where he is now, God is still at work. He’s at work not only in James’s life, but in my life, our family, and my ministry to other special-needs families. I am in awe of how God invites me to live out His purpose for my life through my calling of motherhood. That isn’t same-ness. That is sanctifying.
So like Habakkuk, let’s take joy today. Grab on with me!