Satan is tricky and doesn’t necessarily outright lie to us to get us to disobey. Oftentimes, he gets us with half-truths, like how he got to Eve. “You will not surely die,” he says. But what he doesn’t tell them is that they will start the process of dying. “You will be like God, knowing good and evil,” he says. But what he doesn’t say is that you’ll wish you never did. He doesn’t tell them what a horrible thing it is to know (and unleash) evil.
This is kind of like having kids. If they see me eating something and they think I am trying to keep it hidden from them, it doesn’t matter what it is but suddenly they want it. They have to have it and they won’t be happy unless they get some, because they think, “Surely, if Mom is keeping it from me, it must be good.” I could have a mouthful of pebbles, but if I don’t show them what it is, they automatically assume that it must be great and that I’m holding out on them.
Wow, that speaks to me right now. Eve didn’t even know what evil was and why she should want the knowledge of it, all she knew was that she didn’t have it right now. God was keeping it from her. And if God was keeping it from her, it must be because He doesn’t want her to have fun or be fulfilled or whatever. As I’ve said before, most of our discontentment comes from feeling like God owes us something that He isn’t giving us. (When in reality, we owe Him everything we already have.)
Over last winter, I dealt with a deep sense of “depression” because I felt like there was something out there that God was not giving me, something that I thought I needed – financial stability, success with a project, friendships, etc. But as time went on, I began to realize that I didn’t even really know what I was asking for or what the result of getting those things would be. I couldn’t know for sure that those were “the answers to my prayers.” But I lived like I just had to have them to be fulfilled, that somehow they would make me feel better. Would they? Do I know myself well enough to know what I really needed? Or does God know me better than I know myself? Does He know what I really need and when I really need it? Do I trust Him to lay my requests before Him and then to wait on Him?
I learned that the only way out of that kind of discontentment wasn’t to pursue what I “needed” or to focus too much on whether or not God granted my requests - turning them into idols - but to remember that God knows me better, and that He will provide the right thing at the right time. My job is just to pray (ultimately ending with “You Will be done”), to be content with His providence, to faithfully fulfill the role He gave me (doing the job of mother and wife to the best of my ability, for His glory), and to passionately pursue Him instead of pursuing my “desires,” letting Him become all that I really needed. If I could do this, I would be joyful and thankful for what I had, instead of daydreaming about what I didn’t have and disappointed that God was holding out on me. It's hard to feel like God is holding out on you when find your contentment and fullness in Him. Nothing satisfies quite like that!
And I’ll be honest. This is not usually an easy thing to do. It’s painful to die to self and to learn to do without things you really want or think you need. I have had to learn to let go of people and my desire for deep relationships. I have had to place my dreams for these blogs in the Lord’s hands and become content with the fact that no one I know really cares about them. I have had to let go of my dream of having a home that I could really enjoy. And recently, due to a neighbor’s very moldy garage, I have had to let go of my biggest passion for the summer, gardening. (I’ll admit, I didn’t let go of it easily. There was a lot of “It’s not fair” thoughts as I waited – and still wait – for the city to force them to do something about it. And as I write this, no steps have been made to clean it up in the six weeks since I reported it. It breaks my heart because I don’t like to let the kids outside in the backyard now and I can’t garden.)
Trust me, I know that it hurts to let go of dreams and pursuits, to accept God’s “no” or “not yet” answers.
But it hurts more to pursue things that are currently outside of God’s Will for you or to focus too much on things that “just aren’t meant to be” right now. It hurts more to struggle and strive for something that God doesn’t want to give you. And it will hurt even more if you struggle and strive for something that God doesn’t want for you . . . and then you get it. That will cause more lasting damage than simply learning to accept God’s providence. Think of inappropriate relationships and the pursuit of fame, success, money, pleasure, or material abundance. Getting what we are not supposed to have will be far more painful and destructive than not getting what we think we “need.”
If I cannot be content here and now with God’s providence (trusting that He provides what I need when He knows I need it), what makes me think I’ll really be content when I get the “next thing I think I need to make me happy”? The things I strive for and pursue to make me feel more fulfilled? I’ll probably just end up discovering one more thing that I don’t have but think I need, starting the whole process over again.
You know the verse, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) I think that when we learn to delight in the Lord above all (when we zoom in on God so that He is bigger than everything else; bigger than our longings for other things, our problems, our fears, etc.), we learn that delight in the Lord is the desire of our heart! Contentment has to start here and now, or it never starts at all! And contentment is only really found when you become fully satisfied with the presence – not the presents – of God!