Transcending our Pain and the Hard Work of Contentment

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That elusive state of contentment, where can we find it? I have found myself searching. I have found myself on a journey to be at peace, to be ok, to be able to proclaim, “whatever my lot, it is well with my soul.”

But days go by filled with discontentment. Each day I use up my allotted strength and energy before I am ready. The good things in life feel inadequate, and no matter how much goodness surrounds me, I am always wishing for the next step, the next season of live which would undoubtedly be better.

But I am looking. I am looking for a grounding point, a holding spot where I might plant myself in seasons of good and in seasons of hurt. A place that might transcend the things that happen and the outward state of my life. Wellness of soul whatever my lot may be.

If we are to live fully in the midst of our chronic pain, we must somehow learn to move beyond what we feel and what we experience, finding a peace, a joy, and a contentment that is not based on what we do or do not have.

If we want to thrive, instead of merely surviving, in the midst of our pain, we will have to learn how to find some form of strength and some form of hope that goes beyond what makes sense in our lives of pain.

This journey to contentment and peace in our pain is a process, a long journey. I truly believe that contentment is something that we learn, a state we must tirelessly work towards and not something that is dropped in our laps because we simply wish it into being.

I read the words of Paul, and they can feel simultaneously encouraging and discouraging.

“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” (Philippians 4:12).

If I could only have that same contentment regardless of what I face. If we could only have the strength, the courage, to say that we will be ok, in any and every situation, in sickness and in health. This destination feels unfathomable, impossible.

But I have long been encouraged by these three words: “I have learned.”

Contentment was not magically placed in Paul’s lap. Yes, I am convinced that his contentment and peace came from the Lord. Yes, our ability to bare circumstances beyond our own strength with grace and poise comes from God and his work in his life.

But contentment was something that Paul learned. It seems he wasn’t born with it. It seems this contentment was not spontaneous or idiopathic. I imagine it came out of sweat and out of tears. I imagine it was a lesson achieved over months of hardship, through the years of continued suffering, perseverance, growth, and maturity as he learned more and more what it meant to live a life that was grounded in a foundation beyond his afflictions.

Contentment is worked for and not won.

We do not win the contentment lottery, and no one can give it to us or do the work for us. Every day it is a continual choice, and each time we choose to search for the possibility of contentment, we become more skilled and more adept at this lesson we must learn.

Each day we must do the hard work of finding strength and peace in what we can do instead of pining over what we wish for.

Each day we must choose to get up and take hold of what God has given us, instead of moping because his gifts don’t feel good enough.

Each day we must choose to say yes to this life, instead of living out a wished-for or imagined life within our daydreams.

We focus on what we have instead of what we want. On what we can do instead of what we cannot. We thank God for the things he has given instead of clamoring for more.

Reaching contentment is not always a pretty process, and oftentimes it is not inspiring. Learning new habits is never easy. This is the hard work of daily life, the grit and sweat of a tedious and mundane routine.

But if we can get there, I think it will be worth it.

8 responses

  1. Do you know the story of how “When Peace Like a River” came to be written? Here’s a link if you or any of your readers don’t know the story. It bears repeating.

    • Yes, thank you Kathy! I can’t remember what book I read that went into the story, but it has definitely stuck with me, and one of the reasons the song is one of my favorites. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I think it is actually a life long process. I think it is like climbing steps…we hit new levels of peace and then life gets in the way and we have to get back to the work of finding peace again….

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