One of my favorite movies is the Jack Nicholson-Helen Hunt flick As Good As It Gets. I love it not just because of the quirky characters that populate the movie but because of its message of finding joy, beauty, and meaning in the midst of ongoing life struggles. For me, finding contentment—true joy in all things—has been a continual challenge. I desire an abundant life. And sometimes when circumstances don't look and feel "abundant," life feels less than.
The first time I faced the decision of whether to choose joy or wallow in discontentment because my desires weren't being met was early in my marriage. My husband and I had been facing what felt like a never-ending financial struggle that went from bad to worse. I remember sitting alone in church one day, pouring out my heart to God and finally confronting the question that was really lurking behind all my fears: If this was as good as it would ever get for us, would it be enough? Would I still be able to find joy in spite of unmet hopes and dreams?
At that moment, my mind was flooded with a realization of all the blessings I had accrued over the years, both long-ago and present-day. Rehearsing all I had to be grateful for went a long way toward answering my question. With a resounding "Yes!" I knew that no matter how our circumstances changed, a life with my husband, Dan—whether it meant good times or bad—would be enough. And I knew for certain it would be God who would provide everything I needed in life in exactly the right measure and at the right time.
Discontentment, I discovered, has a lot to do with not trusting God with my future. Over the years, we've faced many more difficult situations, ones I never could have predicted we'd encounter. Maybe you've faced your share of unmet expectations, dashed dreams, and unfulfilled hopes. These all threaten to rob us of our sense of contentment. And yet in the end, the choice is always ours: Do we focus on our circumstances and let this be the determining factor in whether or not we experience joy? Or, do we focus on God, the ultimate promise-keeper, who knows all of our needs and wants and satisfies us in a way that transcends understanding?
Jen Pollock Michel, author of Teach Us to Want, views desire as a gateway to deepened intimacy with God. "For me, prayer and desire almost start to feel synonymous in the Christian life. Our desires are often the way that we meet God," she says. Jen shares more about why she is so adamant that desire be cast in a positive light—as a vital component to spiritual growth—in her interview "What We Want" by Kelli B. Trujillo.
However, not all desire draws you closer to God. A desire for sin—temptation—can move you further from him. That's Rebecca Halton's experience. Rebecca shares her story of being a redeemed adulteress and how it was her act of repentance that created a bridge to freedom from sin—and then God planted a new desire in her heart.
Desire for things we don't have isn't just something adults struggle with; kids struggle with it too. So how exactly are we to raise selfless kids in a self-centered world? Dave Stone shares four specific ways you can show the children around you how to rein in their wants.
Learning to be content with what we have is hard, but when we walk with the Lord and are bold in our prayers, yet completely surrendered to his will, we'll ultimately be drawn closer to him.
Marian V. Liautaud