Wrestling with Contentment

Over and over again people tell me they are waiting for God to do something significant in their lives and most of them are usually dreaming and hoping for something specific. It breaks my heart when they do not see how God is already working through the everyday circumstances of their lives and all they need to do is join in.

We sometimes look and pray so hard for God to do something big through our lives that we do not see what He is currently doing through the people and circumstances around us. I have come to realize in my own life that God was preparing me for what I am doing now and I can only assume He is still preparing me for what He wants me to do in the future.

I also had a dream and prayed hard for it. It was to work in ministry full time. I was tired of working for the perpetual business dollar. However, no matter how many jobs I applied for in the church and with other nonprofits, I could not seem to get an interview. I ended up working at the Star Tribune for twelve years and those who knew me best were the first to say I did not fit in.

I kept busy by working through eight jobs during those twelve years and focused on doing the best work possible. While I continued to pray, all I could do was live my values, serve unconditionally and wait for that ministry opportunity. When I became discouraged or frustrated during times of inequities, I reminded myself to focus on doing the job as if I were serving God — not man (Colossians 3:23). I painfully had to make decisions based on my values instead of what would help me gain favor in other people’s eyes or get that next promotion.

I remember one instance when I was applying for a supervisory position but the hiring manager was confused when I told him I had a servant leadership managerial style. Needless to say, I did not get the job.

On November 30, 1993, I wrote in my journal: “I need to be content in whatever situation I am in rather than always looking for God’s Will in something else. Instead of looking elsewhere, I need to look around at what I’ve already got. Where I am now IS God’s Will. God put me here.”

In the meantime, to ease that discontented feeling, God provided ways for me to serve Him in the church and on overseas mission trips. Although I did not realize it at the time, God used those years of experience in business and volunteer work to prepare me for the job I have now. He even provided a situation where I could finish my Bachelor’s degree and the only thing I had to pay for were my books.

It was June 2007 when the Star Tribune offered their first voluntary buy-outs. I did not accept it at first but woke up the following Sunday to the realization that God had provided the opportunity for me to get out of the trap I had been in. I did not recognize it at first because I had assumed it would come in the form of a new job offer. This open door required me to step out in faith. It meant that I had to quit my current job before acquiring another one.

One week after accepting the buy-out, I received an interview at Northwestern College and within one month, I was working at KTIS meeting with donors, listening to their stories, getting their feedback, answering their questions and making sure their needs are met. God had been waiting for me to let go and then He provided the opportunity.

I, like most people, knew I had finally landed my dream job. It is much easier now that my work matches my values and I can openly live out my faith. Only months after I had started, when I ran across former Star Tribune colleagues, they commented that I looked happier and they could tell that I had finally found the place that was “a good fit for me.” At the same time, I soon found that there are expectations and responsibilities that come with full time ministry. Now, more than ever, I need to strengthen my knowledge of the scriptures. In other words, I need to read more and serve deeper than I ever had before. However, this is not rigorous work. It is who I am so it fits my life and I can live it 24/7.

Every person I meet and every concert I attend challenges me in my faith and understanding. For instance, here are photos from “The Story” Christmas concert this past year with Stephen Curtis Chapman, Newsboys, Selah and Natalie Grant. This is one of those times when pictures cannot begin to describe how inspirational it was.



When I think about my previous post regarding simplicity and this subject of contentment, I cannot help but think about the people I have met during the foreign mission trips I participated in during the past 10 years. I have personally seen that our ability to provide for our own basic needs and buy those things that make us comfortable (give us temporary happiness), are among America’s biggest distractions that keep us from seeking and depending on God’s activity in our lives. In third world countries, they depend on God for their basic needs. In most situations, it is their next meal. But yet, they have a faith that is so strong it has brought me to tears on several occasions. They want to be like us but I want to be like them!

It is time for me to write about my life changing mission trips to the Philippines, Mexico and Africa. I will begin those with my next post.

A Note to my Adult Children

For me, the 1990’s were a decade of self examination, spiritual growth and transformation (Romans 12:2). I had a lot of catching up to do and was responsible for three young lives. I was serious about making life what I had always hoped it could be but it took a lot of humility and dependence on God to discipline myself for the growth (Hebrews 12:11).

As I read my journals these past couple weeks, I noticed three main topics emerge during these years of transition from my 20’s to my 30’s: learning about and appreciating who God created me to be, living a life without chaos, and being content with each day and the circumstances God gave me.

As I think about my own children entering this stage in their lives, I hear the discouraging rhetoric that takes away their hope and tells them that this generation’s circumstances will make it difficult for them to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Therefore, it left me wondering if they are being dealt a hand that is more difficult than my generation. After reading about my own struggles from 20 years ago, I do not think it is more difficult. It is just different.

My struggles with negative self image, simplification, and contentment are still as relevant today as they were back then but the one thing that makes them more complicated is technology. Technology has made dealing with these issues so different that we get confused trying to figure out new ways to define and deal with them. For instance, marketing and the internet has inundated us with more and more creative messages about who we “should” be and what we “should” look like (self image); we have come to believe we “need” more technology so much so that we cannot even sit still or be quiet enough to hear God’s leading (simplification); and, therefore, we feel we need more money to buy more technology, clothing, beauty products and things that we have been convinced will make us successful and happy (contentment).

There are now so many online forums to talk about society’s struggles that it gives the impression that this generation has more to deal with than any previous generation. For instance, with all the talk about binge drinking and the crack down on drunk driving, it appears that it is worse now than it has ever been. However, Americans were consuming 10.5 liters per capita in 1980 and it is currently down to 8.3 liters per capita. That is why Mothers Against Drunk Driving was established in 1980 and, since then, alcohol related traffic fatalities have decreased by 44%. I am not saying that alcohol abuse and drunk driving are not still big issues; I am saying that it has always been a problem.

Every young person throughout history has had to make personal choices; and now, technology has given us more options to choose from. That can be a bad thing when you consider the increased access to gambling and pornography or it can be a good thing when you consider the fact that we have choices to more positive alternatives. I can remember our only alternatives to house parties in the late 1970’s were roller skating and bowling. Back then, we didn’t have electronic games, “good” movies at the touch of a button, or cell phones and Facebook to talk to our friends.

As far as the hopeless rhetoric about the economy is concerned, the unemployment rate was as high during the recession in the early 80’s as it is now. In addition, when my husband and I purchased our home in 1983, our interest rate was 12.25% and our income was only 15% of what it is now. Sure, we struggled but working hard and growing together as a couple is what makes a great marriage.

Just like terrorism, there has always been something to fear. However, my hope is that my children and their friends would be encouraged to see that there is hope by observing those who have gone before them to live fulfilling lives without giving in to fear and hopeless rhetoric.

In my next few posts, I am going to talk more about these age-old topics of self worth, simplicity and contentment in light of my own past experiences. God can give peace and fulfillment when we look beyond the every day rhetoric, images and distractions of 2012 (Psalm 146:5).

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