Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Contentment or Complacency?

I've been learning a lot recently about a stumbling block I keep tripping over, which I didn't know was there until a month ago.  I had a dream where I got pregnant, had a newborn and found myself pregnant again.  Right before I woke up, I remember crying out to the Lord,

"I can't handle 5 kids, Lord!  I can't do this!”

That was the beginning of the realization some band aids needs to be ripped off my life.

Weekend before last, my girls were complaining about a lot of really unimportant things.  They were not content with ALL that we have - and we have more than 99.999% of the world (I don’t think that’s an exaggeration).  So, we started a week long gratitude journal.  The plan was to write what we were grateful for 7 days in a row.  Day 1 was one thing; Day 2, two things; etc. on down the line.

We didn't make it through all 7 days, but we made it through 5. (I call that a win).  You see, slowly, painful, the Lord was pulling up the band aid.  Last Wednesday, I was in a prayer  
Rain Off the Coast of AL
meeting when one of our worship leaders started to pray for rain - favor, wonder and unreserved blessing. Now, I pray that for other people ALL THE TIME.

After we were done, though, I confessed to the group I was scared to ask for that.  Shouldn't I be happy with all He has given?  Was it even right for me to ask for more?

Needless to say, they called me out on my error.  In that moment of confession, I heard the rip of my skin as the band aid came off.

I have been just fine with where I am.  It has felt like A LOT already, but I've been able to handle it, to praise Him abundantly for it.  I feel like I'm being used enough by God, and have more than enough to share.

Yet, under this band aid was a festering wound - created by a lie I'd been believing.  lie.  The lie, the source of the infection (if I can be so graphic) is that I should be happy because to ask for more is selfish, greedy and unbecoming of a Christian woman.  The enemy would love for me to keep believing that because it keeps more out of my life. 

However, the enemy didn't cause the lie to sit there and fester.  I should have known it for what it was, but I was comfortable believing it.  He might have deadened me to the pain, but I gave him the good ground to plant the seed.

Why would I do that?  Why would I believe so obvious a lie?  I’ll tell you why: more is hard.

The kind of more we are talking about is more of God.  And more is just that: more.  It means more logistics, more work, more details.  But more also means just that - more; more ministry territory, more use of my gifts; more fruit of the Spirit; more blessings that comes from more of God made real in my life.

The Lord wants me (and all of us) to have more of Him.  Once the band aid was off, He could heal the wound.  And He did, after about 36 hours of consistent-on-my-face-repentance.  Lots of tears washed that wound clean when I realized I was not content, I was complacent.  Like the 2 tribes that didn’t want to cross over the Jordan, who stayed east of the Promised Land, I wasn't reveling in the goodness of God.  Actually, I was actively (even if unknowingly) holding off further goodness because I didn't think I could handle it.  I was fine with where I was.

To make a long story short: that just isn’t good enough for God.

Complacency was my band aid against facing the fear of not being able to handle all God has to give me.  That fear, that band aid, held me together.  I told myself:  "I'm good where I am, I don't need to ask God for more. Rain is messy, I'll just stay here, warm and dry, under my umbrella."

Contentment is, in essence, making the most of what the Lord has given you and being thankful for it.  That's what Paul is saying in Philippians 4:11-12,

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

As I read these verses a few times, I begin to see a dynamic tension, essential to true, holy contentment.  Paul learned how to be content in all circumstances, yet, he doesn't want to stop there.  He is full, yet still hungry; low but lofty.  He is abundant but still in need.  I don’t think it is just my translation or imagination here.  True contentment is doing all you can with what you have from God and still (excitedly) expecting more. 

To put a finer point on it, another verse we've been praying through at church is Malachi 3:10, when the Lord Himself declares:

Try me now in this (if you bring all you have to me): See if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will be not room enough to receive it.

The Lord does not just promise eternal life in Heaven.  He promises it right here, right now.  So much of it, we can't handle it, by ourselves.  That’s the real trick, ain’t it?

The whole point of the victorious life in Christ is in Paul's very next statement, from Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

It is only by resting in trust, in the favor of God, will anything worthwhile be accomplished - especially more of it.  Contentment knows to rest where complacency knows to fear what might come if we ask too much.  In complacency, we don't ask because we know we won't be able to handle what God gives if we do.  The Apostle James says as much in James 4.  A few verses later, he also says if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us; if we humble ourselves.  Then He will lift us up (James 4:2-3,8,10).

Complacency is about doing what we can with what we have, not expecting anything more because we couldn't handle it.  It is trusting (only) us.  Contentment is about doing what we can with what we have and being grateful for the more that is coming.  It is trusting (only) Christ.

Perhaps you, like me, have been so blessed by God, you can't think of what to ask Him for.  Why ask, when He has already given so much?

That's not piety, as I found out last week .  It's fear and mistrust.  It boils down to the sin of pride.  If I ask the Lord for more, if I surrender more of my heart, mind, to Him, then I'm going to get it and I can’t cope.  So, I stay silent and remain safe, comforted by the little I've received.

Righteous Contentment is the balance of being grateful and wanting more – and trusting God to equip you for what He gives.  It is living in excited anticipation there is so much better coming.  Satisfied, but yet still longing for more of Christ, the hope of glory.

Of course that includes expecting and thanking Him for trials, heartbreak and suffering for His name that might come with His more, because you know you will receive that much more of Him to overcome it.

Now that the band aid is off and the healing is complete, I’m going to ask for more, without an umbrella, without a safety net.  Certainly, without worry it will get messy because God specializes in making beauty out of mess.  He's done it before for us and I've learned a mess from God is always much better than a mess I create myself.

1 comment:

Christian W. said...

Wow. That prayer meeting was powerful and prophetic. God's is really speaking through you on this one Amy. By the way, the January sermon series at the UR will be called "Abundance: Why We Should Be Asking God for More". The intention of Jesus to give us "life more abundantly" is what I am obsessed with these days and I can't wait to share what I have lived and learned on the subject.

In the meantime...keep sharing the JC Bling sis. CW