Chasing Wind {The Search for Contentment}

It starts for me with stuff. Stuff I don’t have, stuff I want. Discontent chimes like an alarm bell, but once it starts, it’s hard to make it stop. It’s there, steady and uneven, clanging away in the background until it becomes impossible to tune out.  It infiltrates everything and what started as a relatively minor and superficial problem has escalated into an all out war in my mind.

Let me give you an example.

I wanted a bookcase.  A small, cheap bookcase to fit in the corner of my bedroom to hold maybe 20-30 books that I haven’t read but would like to this year.  They had been on the floor for some time, gathering dust and making vacuuming a little trickier.  So, I decided a small bookcase, that wouldn’t break the bank, would be the best option.

So far, innocent enough, right?  Not too unreasonable?

But the trouble is, I live in a part of the world where I don’t really have many choices.  There are a few nice furniture places that carry some lovely pieces of furniture, but they were all either too large or too pricey for my needs.  Living here also means that shipping anything heavy, or bulky, can be tricky and expensive.  Some sellers don’t ship here at all, and often the ones that do charge an enormous amount to do so.

That’s where the sighing began.

*Sigh* – my books are still on the floor.

*Sigh* – I can’t walk into a shop and leave with a small, affordable bookcase.

*Sigh* – all the ones I like on the Internet won’t ship here.

*Sigh* – my books are still on the floor.

*Sigh* – living here is a drag.

*Sigh* – I want to live somewhere where I can get a bookcase when I want one. And where the sun shines a bit more often.

Sigh sigh sigh sigh sigh.

And thus it begins.

My insignificant first world problem stirs around in my head and slowly, poisonously, seeps into every nook and cranny, whispering discontentment into my heart and pointing out all the problems I have.  Or at least what I start to perceive as problems.

Every pet peeve and minor irritation grows.  They are small tumours, attaching themselves to every thought until all I can think about is what I don’t have and where I would rather live.

Do you relate to this?  Maybe for you it’s not stuff.  Maybe it’s more to do with people, or circumstances…maybe a job, or a health issue.

But ever so softly, almost inaudibly, discontent presses its lips against your ears, like it does with mine, and tells you wouldn’t you be so much happier if…

Before we know it, we’re chasing wind.  Trying to catch hold of and grip tightly to something that is impossible to keep.

When discontentment is rife, when it takes up its crown and rules our hearts, it steals our joy, it steals our trust, and it steals our faith in God.  We move from believing that we know a sovereign God who holds all things together, who has a purpose and a plan for our lives, who loves us with an everlasting love, into believing He must be a mean killjoy who won’t let us play by our own rules.

 

r st j

 

When we first moved to Shetland more than four years ago, we rented a small chalet out of the town.  We had spectacular views and sheep for neighbours.  Our kids, who were only 2 and 3 years old then loved watching them.  We moved during lambing season and loved to wander along the path by the house watching the lambs frolic and their mamas look at us uneasily.

One day I remember watching one sheep.  It had stuck its head through one of the squares in the wire fence and it was eating the grass on the other side!  Head down, focussed entirely on chomping as much as it could.  It had to strain a little because the square in the wire was a bit above the grass.  Its coat was caught fast too because the square wasn’t all that big.  It must have taken some effort, and some pain, to stick its head through.

But you know what the biggest irony was?  The grass on the other side of the fence, that the sheep was eating as though its life depended on it, was shorter, less green and didn’t seem nearly as lush as the grass on the side of the sheep’s feet!

The more I looked at the sheep, it’s big fluffy head poked through the wire square, the more I wondered if it would ever get its head back through.  It looked well and truly locked in place, oblivious for now, until the grass within its reach was gone.  I thought probably it would need its owner to come and help it back…

Oh how like that sheep I am!  How short sighted can I be when I forget what I have around me and look at what I don’t have.  How my mind can make me believe that what is on the other side of the fence is better, greener, nicer, more lush…it must be so! Why can’t I have what I don’t have now?

How often is my head and neck half way through the fence saying “I want this side.  I think it must be better”? And I get stuck there, thinking how can I get the rest of me through here, into this other place. I haven’t realised that the grass is shorter, browner, that there’s less of it.

It’s easy to think we’d be better off if things were different.

It’s easy to use our imaginations, our desires, fuelled by our discontent, to dream up a better or a different life than the one we have now.

 

Phil 4 12

 

But this is not the way we are to live.  Whatever circumstances you are in today, you can be sure the Lord has put you there. If he had a different plan for you, then you would be somewhere else doing something else.  This is not to say that we shouldn’t ever look to the future, or consider making new choices, moving into new areas. But we must keep those dreams or plans in their right place, trusting that it is the Lord who directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9).

It can take effort on our part. Some days it can be an effort to decide to choose joy and thankfulness over misery and despair. Some days the problem will be greater than a meaningless bookcase, some days the problems will seem insurmountable and tragic.

But, we must take heart that we serve a God who knows all our weaknesses, hurts, pains, trials, and is at work amidst and despite them.

Grace and Love

Helen

 

 

 

 

 

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