Monday, November 21, 2011

Because I Hope

Last summer, I purchased a book called Cultivating Contentment, a book in the Women of Faith Study Guide Series.  After searching through book after book at a Christian bookstore, I came across this Bible study guide, knew it was a topic I wanted to master, and became its proud owner with the full intention of beginning the study that very day.  After weeks of it sitting on the shelf, I got half-way through the first chapter, grew tired, and put the book away.  Today, after a year and a half of the book resting untouched and me experiencing anything but contentment, I decided it was time -- I was ready to delve into the Christian way of contentment. 

It seems I've tried every way but the Christian way.  After going around and around the mountain year after year, looking for a man or possessions or a new city to bring me any emotion other than the discomfort I'm feeling at the moment, after it's all said and done, I always find myself increasingly discontent in pretty much every area of my life.  And even though I've wanted more for my life, I've been complacent in finding more.  I've been lazy, I've been afraid, I've been wrapped up in the chaos and emotions that lead me day to day, moment to moment.  I haven't put in the work required to be content, to be joyful. 

Recently, I have felt this stirring inside to seek out ways to experience peace and contentment and joy to the depths of my core.  I've felt led to open up my Bible and read about jealousy and love and forgiveness.  I kept pushing these thoughts away, ignoring nudge after nudge, justifying my other reading and writing as sufficient enough.  But today, I gave in.  I surrendered to my Bible, and I studied contentment.  I read passages more wise and more inspiring than the dialogue that's been running through my mind, and I gained a bit of clarity.

In the book's introduction, Luci Swindoll states, "Contentment doesn't come naturally, and it isn't always learned quickly.  But it can be learned.  There are pitfalls along the way, bad habits have been formed, thoughtless attitudes have taken hold."  After reading these words, I realized that I can't just read a book about contentment to experience contentment.  The Christian way to contentment requires action.  It takes tiny step after tiny step, day after day, to experience change.  And it's not just about changing my current state of mind.  I will need to change years and years of habits and beliefs and attitudes that are so, completely engrained into my heart and mind.  But it can be done. 

The task seems daunting to say the least.  Where do I begin?  How can my hardened heart be softened with God's Word?  What if I can't do it?  Chapter One of the Bible study ends with the reading of a passage in Romans and asks, "What does Romans 5:5 say about the hope to which we cling?"  Problems and trials develop endurance, and this endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our hope of salvation.  My journey to contentment begins with hope.  I hope for unfailing love, I hope for a soul overflowing with peace and joy, I hope for everlasting life with God and the ones I love.  And because I hope, my journey to contentment has begun.

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