I hugged my eight-year-old daughter close as tears streamed down her face. Her sister’s sudden outburst had hurt her feelings, and she needed reassurance to assuage the pain. As I held her, I noticed the warm skin that not too long ago had a perfect baby softness. I felt her thick mane of curls on my cheek. I was suddenly struck with the realization that my kids weren’t in my hands like they used to be.
For years, it seemed like someone was on my back or in a baby carrier, or someone was hanging onto my legs as I walked, slowly. Someone was crying. Someone was hungry. Someone was hollering, often right in my face, first thing in the morning, as I tried to hide under the sheets. They were always right there, and holding them was so familiar.
I loved them, but I was prone to feel frustrated with the way their little lives impinged mine. I often wondered, Why is this so hard?
Now, they are still kids, but older, independent, biking off to meet friends, reading silently in their rooms, wanting to be alone. They come to me for hugs and encouragement. But they are most certainly not in my hands anymore, not in the same way. And, as thrilled as I am to see them mature, I feel the loss of closeness that comes with children underfoot. I see now that they were meeting my needs for affection even as I met theirs.
That season was not so bad or too difficult after all. It was just different.
My burden or my teacher
I have to admit that the things in my hands are not always the things I most want. As my kids change and my home life morphs, the easiest thing is to long for greener grass elsewhere, to wish for the last season or hope for the next to come more quickly. And I get emotionally stuck when I am always searching for the next best thing.
This is one of our greatest temptations as parents: discontentment. Something in our fallen human nature is always wishing for a better life, overlooking the bounty of good all around us and seeing only the things that bring us pain.
But this practice causes a malaise that is hard to shake off. It tells our minds that there is nothing good to behold right now. It doesn’t take into account that God is a good provider and he never leaves us wanting. He does, however, want us to grow from our experiences.
In this way, each phase of life can either be my burden or my teacher.
These beautiful children I had prayed for and longed for through infertility and miscarriages galore, plus a failed adoption, can either be seen as time-suckers and energy-drainers or as priceless gifts, made in the image of God and given to me for a limited period of time.
This season, like all of the others before, can be an anchor around my neck or it can be my teacher. I can despise it, or I can bear it with grace.
When I find myself often feeling unhappy, just trudging through life, desperate to move on from my current circumstances, it often means I have given into a spirit of discontentment. And God must have known how I would struggle and grumble because Scripture has a lot of grace-filled things to say about discontentment.
It is to my benefit to be both godly and content
In 1 Timothy 6:6, Scripture reminds us that we brought nothing into the world and can’t take anything when we go. It’s all temporary.
When I feel discontent, I remind myself that every piece of my life is a gift I could never earn.
There might also be a veiled point to this Scripture—that being godly and being a grumbler don’t go well together. In my pursuit of spiritual wisdom or godly parenting, I have missed something vital if I am not also choosing his peace to go with it.
God cares about the things I desire
Psalm 37:4 says that when I delight myself in the Lord, he will give me the desires of my heart.
When I have healthy longings that feel out of reach, I remember that I have a God who doesn’t carelessly dictate my life. He cares about me (1 Peter 5:7) and my dreams as well. He doesn’t just provide bread and a roof over my head, but he gives abundantly.
In the dry times of life, I can trust that better and more satisfying days are coming.
Gratitude improves my mental state
First Thessalonians 5:18 says to give thanks in all circumstances.
Having a grateful posture creates humility in my heart and peace in my soul. It reorients my mind on what I have and not on what I don’t have. It reminds me of all of the blessings around me, the simple pleasures I take for granted.
When I choose to give thanks, especially aloud, my whole mood tends to shift and become lighter, even when my circumstances stay the same.
I have what I truly need for each day
In Philippians 4:11, Paul reminds us to be content in every circumstance, to choose it, and to remember that it is God who gives us our strength for daily life.
I remember that I am not alone in my concerns, pains, and difficulties. I don’t have to muster up the courage and stamina for another day. I can seek the wisdom and strength of my Father God, who has promised to move mountains for me. It is in him that I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28).
There is no need too small. Maybe the “manna” I need for today is time for a quick nap. Maybe it is a dose of patience for my busiest child. Maybe it is energy to be loving to my husband when he gets home. I have a God who is sufficient for every need. I only have to ask.
I can mature through every season if I choose to. This is possibly the hardest lesson to learn.
But the truth is, I can leave this year or this decade and go into the next as the same person with the same issues, or I can commit to taking everything from it that I am able. I can let it grow me up a bit more. I can let God have his way with my heart through the challenges.
Contentment is my choice, every single day.
What things are in your hands today that feel heavy?
Don’t let them weigh you down or discourage you. Don’t give in to accepting that life has to feel like drudgery all the time. Give each thing that burdens you over to God.
Make a choice to move toward contentment and see how he works on your behalf.