“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Recently, I read something which has stuck with me. It was apparently the motto of one of the newest saints, Saint Mariam of Bethlehem: “Always be content!”, she always said. It’s sort of the “ABC of contentment”.
I’ve been trying to practice this rule. Every time I am about to complain or grouse about something – physical discomfort, annoying people, the weather, some plan of mine that isn’t working out – I stop myself (at least I try to), and say instead, “Thank you, Lord for this”. I’m trying to really live out my core belief that my Heavenly Father is lovingly and sovereignly in charge of all the circumstances of my life. Complaining about difficult or annoying circumstances is in direct opposition to that belief, calling into question my trust in God’s goodness.
This doesn’t mean that I like what’s happening; far from it! In fact, the more I dislike the circumstances, the greater is the challenge to my resolution to “always be content!”. And the greater is the sacrifice required, for of course I am free to choose to complain.
But I find that when I follow through on my new program, it becomes easier and easier to tolerate what’s happening. Complaining seems to magnify my distress, and I can risk falling into real misery or even self-pity, that truly ugly state. If instead I affirm by my response that the Lord who loves me – the Savior who carried his Cross and laid his life down for love of me – is in control and is allowing this uncomfortable circumstance in my life for his own reasons, I am able to offer my feeble thanks for it, unwelcome as it might be.
When I bow to his vastly superior wisdom, acknowledge my Heavenly King’s rights over my life, I end up living trustfully and peacefully, resting in the palm of his Hand. It’s a good exercise and a rewarding one to practice.