Are You Content in Your Circumstances?
Do you ever find yourself yearning for times when life seemed so much simpler? As I was checking my social media accounts today, I noticed many postings about years past. Their nostalgia seemed so enticing, especially with the upheaval and discord that is the norm today. The articles conjured images of clothes fluttering in the breeze on a clothesline, families sharing a meal together, tidy little houses with white picket fences and carefully manicured gardens, and neighbors chatting over those fences. Compared to the hustle and bustle of today’s world, those images drew me in, instantly creating a simultaneous sense of discord and longing. But is it realistic? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no.
No matter how much we want it, we do not live in a “Mayberry” world. Technology alone has changed that. We no longer handwrite letters, then deliver them to the Post Office to arrive at their destination days later. We rarely take the time to stop and chat with our neighbors. In fact, how many of us even know our neighbors?
In this world full of technology, it’s easy to get caught up in life’s busyness and forget to focus on what is really important. So many of us jump out of bed at the sound of an alarm clock and head straight for our coffee makers, hoping we programmed it right and there is a mug of hot brew waiting for us. We often do not take the time to enjoy it because we are already checking the emails that arrived overnight and reviewing our plan for the day.
When our cup is empty, we set it in the kitchen sink as we pass by on our way to a hot shower and whatever else we do to prepare for the day. Most of the time, we don’t even stop for a hot breakfast when a muffin will do. If we still have children at home, we do what’s necessary to ensure they are also ready to head out the door with snacks, lunches, and all they may need for their day. There’s a quick “Good morning” text to the hubby, who is already long gone for his day, and then everyone is out the door and into the car.
There’s the usual traffic, and there seem to be more rude drivers than yesterday. The kids want the volume turned up on the radio, even though they are all glued to their cell phones. The clock on the dashboard mocks us as the minutes tick away, reminding us that we are on a schedule that is currently at risk because one of those rude drivers just caused a fender-bender and created a parking lot on the freeway. A quick check of the GPS and we choose an alternate route that will deliver the children to summer camp on time. Then, we return to traffic to repeat the process to our destination.
Whatever we have on tap for the rest of the day, we rush through it, maybe taking a few minutes to gobble down a bite of lunch at some point. Then we repeat our transit in reverse to finally arrive home. There’s still dinner to think about, but thank goodness hubby shows up with pizza and dessert. Everyone grabs their portion and retreats to their individual rooms to eat while finishing homework, playing a video game, or watching their favorite TV show. Hubby plants a kiss on your cheek as he grabs his slice of pizza, drops down on the sofa, and turns on the evening news. Finally, we are left to stand in the kitchen and reflect on those images of by-gone days. We know tomorrow will be much the same as today, and we wish we could step back into the past for a breath of fresh air and a little peace and rest.
Truth be told, the concept is not that unreasonable or unattainable. What makes it seem so elusive is our perspective. When we focus only on the busyness of our circumstances, we become trapped by them, but it was never supposed to be this way. We were never supposed to fight our circumstances, but distraction is one of the enemy’s most successful tools. The more we have to do, the more we seek ways to manage it. Technology has allowed us to do just that, giving us more time to do even more. We have become unaccustomed to idle time, so we fill it with more tasks which we then need to find ways to accomplish faster so we will have more time to enjoy life. So, we discover more efficient ways to take care of those tasks—thank you, technology—and the cycle continues. Instead of finding that sense of peace, we are busier, more stressed, feel less accomplished, and long for those days when life seemed so much easier. We totally miss the point that those by-gone days were just as busy, filled with manual labor instead of automation and technology.
Those images of gently wafting clothes drying on the line were preceded by hours of washing, rinsing, and hefting heavy baskets of wet clothes to be hung on that line, piece by piece. Then, they were gathered back into the baskets to be folded, ironed, and put away. That meal the family shared around the table took hours to prepare. First, there was a trip to the butcher for the freshest cut of the day. It had to be seasoned, browned, and put into the oven to roast. Fresh vegetables had to be peeled, sliced, and set to cook. There was dough prepared for biscuits and a pie crust filled with fresh fruit and covered with more dough. Finally, the roast came out of the oven to rest, the pie went in, and everything came together just in time for the rest of the family to appear, wash hands and faces, and congregate around the table.
I think we get the point. Circumstances are not always what they seem. It all depends upon the perspective from which they are being viewed.
God’s Word provides many references to circumstances and how we can avoid feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by them. In fact, at least 100 verses of Scripture tell us how to be content no matter our circumstances. For example, John lived a life full of trials, yet even he knew how to find peace, and tells us in Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV):
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
There is also encouragement in God’s Word, verses to give us hope and provide us with the true secret of achieving that sense of peace we so earnestly desire. 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 (NIV) says:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV), His Word also tells us we have everything we need to see each day from a perspective of gratitude:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
So, with the Father’s arsenal of divine teaching that is as applicable today as when it was written, we have all we need to accept whatever comes our way. He tells us we are exactly where we are supposed to be at this specific time, and there is no need to long for those things that have already passed.
This is the day the Lord had made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (ESV)