As Kristen and I recorded the podcast last week, one of the things we discussed was the way all of us tend to think our lives would be better and we would be happy ... if only something in our lives were different. Though it's a common belief, it's not a true one. I wrote about it in Dancing With My Father:
After I became a committed Christian in college, I worked my way to righteousness: I attended church and Bible studies, tithed, and finally decided to go into Christian work. And I sort of expected, though perhaps subconsciously, that God would bless my obedience by giving me everything I desired in life: marriage, family, success in my work.
My first thought had been, I will be happy when I get married. I finally got married at twenty-eight. Since I equated happiness with achieving my ideals in my life,I was surprised when my marriage didn't soothe the restlessness in my spirit and fill the vacuum in my heart.
I thought a child might fulfill me. So I prayed, Lord, please bless me with a child. I became pregnant at thirty-one. I gave birth to three babies in the next five years, which left me reeling! Instead of feeling fulfilled, I found myself overwhelmed with the responsibility of motherhood.
I was blessed with three children and married to my best friend. But my best friend worked seventy hours a week, leaving me to handle the house and parenting responsibilities mostly on my own. I felt alone. I had few friends because we moved every two years into new ministry situations.
I kept finding myself thinking, I will be happy when... And I filled in the blanks with a list of events I had built up in my mind, which I was certain would fulfill my life.
I will be happy when all of my babies are out of diapers.
I will be happy when we have friends and support systems.
I will be happy when my husband is home more.
I will be happy when we can change jobs.
I will be happy when we have a bigger salary.
The list marched subconsciously through my mind each day of my discontent. And with each passing day, my dissatisfaction and expectations grew. During this time, I was reading my Bible and serving God the best I knew how. I didn't realize that I mistakenly believed I needed these things to be happy because I was basing my expectations on worldly, temporal values.
Finally, I came to the end of myself. At some point in life, it dawned on me that this is the "broken place." Earth is the temporary place where Satan rules and where all people are sinful and subject to the disappointments of a fallen world, to the longings that come from being separated from God.
I can picture ideals and dream of the life for which I was created, but Jesus never promised I would experience ultimate fulfillment in this world.
I realized that if I didn't build my foundations on eternal realities, I would never be content. Nothing in this physical world would ever totally live up to my expectations. The Lord had to dissolve my self-will in a slow, humbling process of my reluctantly giving up my ideas about what I needed to be happy. I had to become willing to place myself on the altar of God's will. Trying to control my life and whip it into shape by means of my own effort only brought frustration and disillusionment. I realized that in a fallen world, happiness, perfection, and the fairy tale of a Cinderella life are always doomed to failure.
As we're beginning a new year, might I encourage you to accept the cup God has given you *today*? And look for your happiness and joy and contentment in Him, regardless of your circumstances?
"Godliness with contentment is great gain" 1 Timothy 6:6.
Dancing With My Father is available here on Amazon.